Martin and Al-Samman executed a separation agreement that stated that Al-Samman was the uncontested sole owner of their home. Three years later, Al-Samman filed a complaint for divorce and moved to incorporate the separation agreement into “any Final Decree of Divorce.”
In court, Martin challenged the validity of the separation agreement and the source of the down payment for the property.
- Validity of the Separation Agreement - Al-Samman testified that she wrote the separation agreement so that in the future there would be no confusion that she had purchased and financed the house with her own resources; which included a gift from her parents. The court credited Al-Samman’s statement. The document also expressly provided that he agreed that Al-Samman was the sole owner of the property.
- The Source of the Down Payment - Martin contested that Al-Samman received the funds for the down payment from marital accounts; rather than a gift from her parents. The court found that Al-Samman’s bank statements were consistent with someone receiving money from an external source.
Virginia Circuit Court Directs Plaintiff to Prepare the Final Decree of Divorce:
Martin filed multiple motions to seek reconsideration, which were all struck down by the circuit court. He then appealed the final decree of divorce pro se.
- When the circuit court transmitted the record, Martin filed a pleading claiming that documents were missing.
- The court accepted this pleading as a petition for writ of certiorari; however, upon reviewing the table of contents Al-Samman found that all documents were present.
Virginia Court of Appeals finds no error in Circuit Court's ruling:
The VA court of Appeal’s final ruling stated that the record supports the circuit court’s judgment that the separation agreement was valid, finding no error.
Post Trial - Martin claimed that the circuit court erred by not allowing him to file his objections and by denying his motions to reconsider. The record reflects that he had the opportunity at multiple hearings to raise his arguments and note his objections. Also, the circuit court correctly held that it did not have jurisdiction to reconsider the ruling regarding the property or the validity of the settlement agreement.
Where a Separation Agreement is Present, All Notions Incorporated Can Be Entered Into the Final Decree of Divorce
In 2023, the Virginia Court of Appeals found that property purchased using gifts can be considered separate property when explicitly stated in a separation agreement; regardless of objections from the opposing party.
A fully executed and signed separation agreement is a valid contract and is enforceable by Virginia law. This document often covers property division, alimony, child support and custody, etc. For help drafting your separation agreement, please consult with one of our Virginia attorneys at Smith Strong, PLC by calling 804.325.1245 or by messaging us on this site.
Opinion: WAYNE KENNETH MARTIN v. HANADI AL-SAMMAN, Va. Ct. App. No. 1109-18-2 (Va. Ct. App. Sep. 26, 2023)
Special thanks to Dayani R. Robinson for editorial assistance in drafting this article. Dayani is a student at the University of Virginia, majoring in Political Science; and worked at Smith Strong, PLC from 2023 - 2024.