Will Spousal Support Ever End in Virginia?
Thursday, June 16, 2016

In Virginia, there are several conditions that will terminate an award of spousal support (alimony) even if there is an agreement between the parties or an order of the court for spousal support.  Virginia Code Sections 20-109 and 20-110 outline those terminating conditions.  First, support terminates if either party dies.  While the party receiving spousal support may still have a need for support, the decedent’s estate will not be required to pay spousal support unless the parties provided an alternative, such as life insurance for the recipient or a specific agreement that the recipient would have a specific claim against the payor’s estate for a set amount.  Second, if the recipient remarries, spousal support terminates immediately.  In fact, the statute specifically puts the burden of disclosing the marriage on the recipient as an immediate obligation.  Third, the statute states that if the “spouse receiving support has been habitually cohabitating with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage for one year or more. . . , the court shall terminate spousal support” unless the parties have contracted otherwise. The Virginia Code currently recognizes marriage to be between one woman and one man.  However, in a recent case, Luttrel v. Cucco (2016), the Supreme Court enlarged the “relationship analogous to a marriage” to include persons of the same sex.  Justice Mims of the Supreme Court of Virginia stated that “Virginia Code § 20-109(A) recognizes that an individual who has entered a committed, financially interdependent relationship with a third person is no longer dependent upon his or her ex-spouse in the same manner as when the agreement was executed. Therefore, it provides a mechanism designed to prevent one former spouse from obtaining a windfall at the expense of the other after the recipient has entered such a relationship.” 

Therefore, if your former spouse is living with a person of the same sex in a relationship for one year or more that is like a marriage then a court, upon request by the party paying support, shall terminate the support.  The burden of proving the relationship is analogous to marriage is on the party asking the court to end the spousal support.   Although the Virginia Code doesn’t recognize same sex marriages, Virginia has decided that a spouse ordered to pay spousal support should not have to continue that obligation if the former spouse receiving support is in a marriage-like relationship, no matter if it is a traditional or same sex relationship. 

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