Equal Means…Well, Equal

May 9, 2016

Equal means equal led to the termination of Alimony in Virginia – Last week, Virginia’s Supreme Court overruled two previous lower court rulings, and determined that a same-sex relationship analogous to marriage was grounds for termination of support (Luttrell v. Cucco, Record No. 150770). The Supreme Court determined that interpreting the law to mean that “two identically-situated individuals with identical spousal awards would receive opposite treatment if one cohabits in a same-sex relationship and the other cohabits in an opposite-sex relationship” would be an untenable result.

The couple was married in 1992, separated and filed for divorce in 2007. As part of their settlement agreement, Mr. Luttrell agreed to pay monthly spousal support to Ms. Cucco for a term of 8 years which would terminate if, among other reasons, a court granted termination for cohabitation. In July 2014, Mr. Luttrell filed a motion for adjustment of the spousal support on the grounds of cohabitation. At the hearing, Ms. Cucco did not deny Mr. Luttrell’s allegations but instead pointed out that her relationship was with another woman and contended that, therefore, she was not cohabitating since both the separation agreement and the Virginia statute contemplated only a relationship between a man and a woman. The Virginia Court of Special Appeals agreed.

In 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages and in November 2015, the Virginia Supreme Court agreed to hear Mr. Luttrell’s appeal. The Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the lower court’s interpretation makes it clear that same-sex relationships are now on the same footing as opposite-sex relationships when considering cohabitation as a grounds for divorce.

In the coming weeks Aronson LLC will publish a blog series covering the tax aspects of alimony payments and the tax consequences when alimony payments are re-characterized as child support or distributions of property.

For information on how Aronson can provide assistance in estate, trust and marital disputes click here or contact Sal Ambrosino at 301.231.6272.