Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) August 17, 2016 – There are a number of situations in Virginia that terminate an award of spousal support. One such condition is when either party dies. Although the recipient of spousal support may require support, the decedent’s estate will not have to pay the recipient unless the parties made a specific provision for this. For instance, they may have agreed that the spouse would receive life insurance, or have a claim against the decedent’s estate for a specific sum.
A second instance in which spousal support terminates right away is when the recipient remarries. The statute places the burden of revealing the marriage on the recipient. The third situation that marks the end of spousal support is when the recipient has been living with another person on a regular basis in a relationship comparable to marriage for one or more years.
Prominent Vienna, Virginia family law attorney Lisa McDevitt states, “By consulting an experienced family law attorney, clients become informed of any changes in the law that may affect their obligation to pay spousal support.”
Under the Virginia Code, marriage is between a man and a woman. However, in the case of Luttrell v. Cucco (2016), the Supreme Court expanded the “relationship similar to marriage” to include people of the same gender. The court held that a person who has become involved in a relationship, in which the parties are financially dependent on each other, is no longer reliant on his or her ex-spouse to the same degree as when they entered into the contract.
In Lutrell, following their divorce in 2008, Michael Lutrell had entered into an agreement to pay his ex-wife, Samantha Cucco, spousal support on a monthly basis for eight years with the condition that she not remarry or live with anyone in a relationship analogous to marriage. In 2014, Mr. Luttrell filed a lawsuit against his wife, claiming she had violated terms of the spousal support agreement after her engagement and continual living arrangement with her fiancée, who is a woman, for a minimum of one year.
Although Ms. Cucco did not deny the allegation, she argued that the provision was inapplicable to the state definition of “cohabiting” because she was residing with a woman. Her contention may well have been valid prior to 1997, when an amendment to the law caused the wording to be gender-neutral.
If a prior spouse has resided with a person of the same gender, in a relationship, for at least one year, then a court shall terminate spousal support upon request by the payor spouse. The payor spouse must show that the relationship is comparable to marriage. Even though the Virginia Code does not acknowledge same-sex marriages, a spouse should not be required to continue to pay spousal support if the prior spouse is receiving support in a relationship that is similar to marriage.
Lisa Lane McDevitt
2155 Bonaventure Drive
Vienna, VA 22181