Virginia Supreme Court Recognizes Same-sex Cohabitation
On April 28th, 2016 the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can cohabitate for purposes of spousal support termination. The issue presented was whether alimony payments could end upon the individual receiving such payments beginning a same-sex cohabitation. Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is the financial support one spouse gives the other after divorce or separation. Alimony in Virginia may be a contentious area in your divorce. If you or anyone you know is facing a divorce or dealing with the issues surrounding alimony payments, contact the divorce lawyers at our office to assist you in this process.
Modification Of Spousal Support
In the State of Virginia, spousal support is not set in stone and can change depending on the circumstances of your case. Spousal support (alimony) can terminate or be modified under the Virginia law for a variety of reasons. Spousal support may terminate upon the death or cohabitation of the ex-spouse receiving payments. Spousal support can also be modified, by increasing, decreasing or changing the duration, if there has been a material change of circumstances, since the last agreement was created.
Can Same Sex Cohabitation End Spousal Support? Yes.
The historic Virginia Supreme Court decision announced on April 28th, 2016 recognized same-sex couples as analogous to other marriages for the purposes of spousal support. The case centered upon Michael Luttrell and Samantha Cucco, who were married in 1992 and divorced by 2007. Under their divorce agreement, Michael was to pay Samantha monthly spousal support payments for eight years. However, under Virginia law, spousal payments terminate when evidence is presented to the court that the spouse receiving such payments entered into cohabitation with another person. Luttrell asked to court to end his spousal payments to his ex-wife, as she was cohabiting and engaged to another for at least year. However, here is the rub: Samantha was engaged to a woman. Samantha thus contended that Virginia law of spousal support termination did not apply to the circumstances of same-sex cohabitation. Although gay marriages were recognized in 2014, Samantha argued that the recognition of same-sex marriage should not terminate her spousal support, and the lower courts agreed; however, luckily for Michael Luttrell, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled differently.
The Supreme Court of Virginia viewed the state spousal support law as encompassing same-sex individuals and same sex couples. Therefore, the ruling is yet another step in recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples in all facets of the law, even the termination of spousal support.
Reach Out to Us for Help
Divorce is never an easy process and spousal support may be a contentious area in your divorce. Issues of how much to pay, how long, or perhaps how to modify future payments may be just a few of your concerns. If you or someone you know is dealing with issues or separation or divorce and alimony payments, contact the divorce lawyers at the office of Shannon & Bedois, P.C. at (757) 228-5529 for step by step guidance through this legal process.