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Fairfax VA Family Law Blog

Supreme Court Recognizes the Right of Same-Sex Couples Nationwide to Marry

In a landmark decision handed down early on Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that same-sex couples are allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer restrict this right to heterosexual couples.

Sharing Love and Money Outside of Marriage and the Potential Downsides

"It has become 'no big deal' to mix love and money outside of marriage." In a recent article, the Washington Post examines the modern complexities that face unmarried couples who share finances. As marriage rates decline, more and more unmarried couples are forming joint accounts and buying property together. These decisions can have long-range affects and individuals should be aware of the potential consequences.

Same-Sex Cohabitation Found Not to Fit Definition of "Cohabit" Pursuant to Va. Code Sec. 20-109(A)

Virginia Code Sec. 20-109(A) provides for the termination of a spousal support obligation "based upon clear and convincing evidence that the spouse receiving support has been habitually cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage for one year or more." In Luttrell v. Cocco, the Virginia Court of Appeals addressed the issue of how 20-109(A) would apply to same-sex couples. There, Husband sought to modify his support obligation to his former Wife based upon her cohabitation and engagement to another woman for at least one year. The Court of Appeals construed the cohabitation statute not to apply to the same-sex couple and affirmed the denial of Husband's motion to modify spousal support. This is a decision that confounds the mind in light of the 2012 Court of Appeals decision in Brennan v. Albertson, where the Court upheld a termination of spousal support to an ex-wife who was living with another women in a platonic relationship. The difference between the two opinions is that the issue of whether a same-sex couple could "cohabit" was not before the Court in Brennan, because in that case the two females were not romantically involved but did consider the relationship as permanent or indefinite. Accordingly, the Virginia Court of Appeals has permitted a husband to terminate his spousal support obligation on the basis that his ex-wife was living with a female friend, but the Virginia Court of Appeals precluded a husband from terminating his spousal support obligation where his wife was living with another woman in a romantic relationship with the intention to marry. On the face, the two opinions seem to be at odds with each other, and it seems likely that the General Assembly will need to revise Section 20-109(A) given the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in Virginia.

Surrogacy: An Evolving Area of the Law

          Modern technology complicates parentage under the law. In a recent, high profile case, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that actress Shari Shepherd was to be listed on the birth certificate of a child born via surrogacy. In that case, Ms. Shepherd and her former husband, Lamar Sally, conceived a baby using a donor's egg, Sally's sperm, and a surrogate's womb. Although Ms. Shepherd was not biologically related to the child, the judge ruled she was to be listed on the birth certificate as "mother" pursuant to a surrogacy contract and the intent of the parties. The parties' intended, prior to their split, to be parents to the then unborn child.

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