Based on a May 2 decision by the Virginia Supreme Court, same-sex relationships in the state will be given the same status as heterosexual relationships. Although gay marriage has been legal in Virginia since 2014, two lower courts had ruled that a man had to continue paying spousal support to his ex-wife despite the fact that she was engaged to a woman who she was living with.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on the man’s behalf that argued that he should no longer have to pay support since she was in a new relationship. The man’s ex-wife said that because it was a same-sex relationship, it did not count for those purposes.
The court ruled that if a gay couple has been in a relationship for more than a year, then they can be considered to have a relationship similar to marriage. According to the ACLU, since the case does not challenge constitutional or federal law, it will not go past the state’s supreme court.
The ruling reinforces that legally, same-sex relationships and marriages are on the same footing as heterosexual relationships. When same-sex marriages end, many of the same issues around property division, prenuptial agreements and support will arise. One area in which the situation may still be more complex than for heterosexual couples is in regard to child custody. Support, visitation and custody may depend on whether both people have been legally recognized as the child’s parents. Parents in a same-sex relationship who are considering a divorce may want to obtain legal advice about this issue to find out what their rights are and how they might proceed.
Source: WTVR, “Va. Supreme Court Recognizes Unmarried Same-Sex Couples Equal in Divorce Law,” Tracy Sears, May 3, 2016