Virginia law regarding the modification of a spousal support award is plentiful. Here are a few recent decisions:
"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.
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.
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.
Partner Julie Gerock is participating in a mock pendente lite hearing through her membership on the Domestic Relations Sub-Committee of the FBA Circuit Court Committee. The Domestic Relations Sub-Committee is hosting a brown bag luncheon to assist domestic relations practitioners in learning to prepare for a Friday motion's day pendente lite hearing. Three of the firm's associates, Kara Lee, Sarah Payne and Scott Weinbaum will also be in attendance.
Partner, Julie Gerock, was part of a panel yesterday, February 4, 2015 at the Fairfax Circuit Court on Civility and Professionalism. She was accompanied by other distinguished panel members including The Honorable Donald W. Lemons, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia; The Honorable Rossie D. Alston, Jr. of the Court of Appeals of Virginia; The Honorable Lorraine Nordlund, Fairfax County Circuit Court judge; John McGavin of Bancroft, McGavi, Horvath & Judkins, P.C.; and Chidi I. James of Blankingship & Keith. The discussion was lively, informative, and important to the profession and practice of law.
Maddox & Gerock encourages fellow attorneys to attend an upcoming discussion on civility and professionalism. Partner Julie Gerock will be one of the speakers that afternoon.
Maddox & Gerock encourages all Virginia family law attorneys to attend this amazing advanced family law retreat: Tying & Untying the Knot: Advocating Same Sex Family Law Issues. It will take place on February 20-21, 2015 at the Boar's Head Inn, Charlottesville, VA. Partners Julie Gerock, Katharine Maddox and Marcia Maddox plan to attend.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review the ruling which declared Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. As a result, same-sex couples may now officially get married in Virginia.
By Scott Weinbaum