splitting an inheritance during a divorce

How Inheritances Impact Alimony Payments

Alimony is a contentious issue for many divorcing couples. While the party set to receive alimony believes they deserve financial support for their role in their ex-partner’s career success, the party paying alimony believes they deserve to keep their money. Since it is such a high-stakes issue, there are lots of guidelines and laws that outline how and when spousal support is paid.

These laws and guidelines include what happens when one party receives an inheritance. Discuss your case in greater detail with Olmstead & Olmstead by calling us at 703-361-1555.

Can My Spouse Get My Inheritance?

If you received an inheritance prior to or during your marriage, you may worry about losing part of it to your ex-partner during your divorce. However, in most cases, you do not have to worry about this. The courts generally view inheritances as separate property, not marital property. This means that they are not subject to division during a divorce.

How Virginia Courts Calculate Alimony

A lot of factors influence how alimony is paid and how long a party receives spousal support payments. In general, someone leaving a marriage of 20 years will receive substantially more alimony than someone leaving a marriage of one year. Income differences are also relevant. If the two parties have relatively similar incomes, it’s unlikely that alimony will be awarded. If one party makes ten times more than the other party, the lower-earning party is likely to receive sizable monthly payments.

It’s also important to note that alimony is not “punishment.” It isn’t awarded to discipline the party who may have caused the marriage to end. However, fault may affect how much spousal support is awarded. For example, if one party was unfaithful, they may be unable to receive spousal support—even if they relied on their spouse during the marriage.

The goal of spousal support is to allow the lower-earning party to adjust to life after divorce and the expenses that come with it. Rather than sustaining an individual for the rest of their life, alimony is generally viewed as a temporary measure to allow a lower-earning party to get the experience or education needed to provide for themselves.

When talking about inheritances and alimony, note that the court does look at each party’s assets and ability to provide for themselves when calculating alimony.

What Happens If One Person is Expecting or Has Received an Inheritance

Knowing that, it makes sense that inheritance can affect alimony in Virginia. Consider a situation in which a lower-earning spouse received an inheritance of $2 million. They are seeking spousal support from their spouse, who earns $250,000 per year. While the lower-earning party may not have the same earning power as their spouse, they do have the means to support themselves after the marriage ends. In this case, spousal support may be decreased or eliminated entirely.

What if one party is expecting an inheritance when the marriage ends? The expectance of an inheritance rarely affects spousal support. An inheritance isn’t worth anything to an individual until they actually have it, and until they have it in hand, it’s wise to assume that it will not materialize. However, once they do receive their inheritance, the other party may choose to go to court to have alimony adjusted.

Know Your Options

Whether you expect to pay or receive alimony, it’s crucial to talk about your options with a Manassas divorce attorney. So many factors affect alimony that it’s impossible to know what you will pay or receive until you go over your specific situation with a lawyer.

Knowing what your finances will look like after divorce can help you plan for life as a newly single person. Make sure to tell your attorney if you have received or expect to receive an inheritance if your current spouse has received or expects to receive an inheritance and any information regarding separate assets that significantly change either party’s financial status.

Call Olmstead & Olmstead to Talk About Your Options

The decisions you make during divorce will affect you for years to come, so don’t make them until you have talked to an attorney. The team at Olmstead & Olmstead is ready to guide you through this challenging time. Call us at 703-361-1555 or reach out online to set up a meeting now.

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