Court Grants Survivor Benefits to Estranged Wife

October 13, 2011 ( – A Virginia court has ruled that the wife of a deceased Virginia truck driver is entitled to receive survivor benefits despite being separated from her husband at the time of his death.

Business Insurance reports Virginia’s Court of Appeals said Gena Sifford qualifies as a dependent under the state’s worker’s compensation law because she relied on Anthony Sifford to pay most of her expenses, and was living in the same home as her estranged husband when he died from a work-related accident in September 2008. “The evidence is uncontroverted that Mr. Sifford supported his wife on a regular basis and that she relied on that support for reasonable necessaries,” the ruling reads, according to Business Insurance.  

The court records show the Siffords separated in January 2008 and moved into separate bedrooms within their house. A written agreement in May 2008 waived spousal support and child support between the pair, but Mr. Sifford agreed to pay all of the home’s expenses and provide money for the couple’s minor daughter.   

The news report said Ms. Sifford, who earned about $11,100 a year as a teacher’s aide at the time of Mr. Sifford’s death, testified that she was dependent on her husband’s full-time income. She said Mr. Sifford paid such expenses as home mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, cable bills, and cell phone bills.   

The decision reversed a ruling from the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission which said Mr. and Ms. Sifford’s financial arrangement was meant to benefit their child, and that Ms. Sifford should not receive Mr. Sifford’s death benefits because she waived spousal support.   

The appellate court said the Commission erred in its finding because Mr. Sifford continued to support Ms. Sifford and their child until his death.   

The court opinion is available at