Virginia Mediation Separation Marital Dissolution Lawyers Attorneys

September 11, 2001, Decided


            Husband, an active member of the United States Navy, executed, after separation from his wife, a survivor’s benefit plan election certificate, providing a deferred annuity for wife and children. The husband had three options, no participation for the wife, an immediate annuity, or a deferred annuity. In electing to provide the wife the deferred annuity benefit, the husband selected to base her level of coverage on his full monthly retired pay. The parties executed a postnuptial agreement which embodied a mediation agreement. In the postnuptial agreement, each party agreed to waive all interests in any other real or personal property, and retirement benefits. In the decree of divorce, the trial court expressly made a part of the decree the postnuptial and mediation agreements.  The trial court declined to award wife a portion of the monthly disposable Navy retirement benefits of husband in marital dissolution case.  The wife appealed from the order.


  • Whether the trial court erred in construing the parties’ postnuptial agreement dated February 3, 1999, and the decree of divorce entered on April 9, 1999, incorporating the agreement, as an adjudication of all equitable rights of the parties in their marital property?


            The Court states that in the postnuptial agreement, which incorporated the mediation agreement, the provisions for division of the parties’ property were set forth in separate, identified paragraphs. Paragraph 2.7, entitled “Retirement Accounts/Assets,” provided that, “as divided by the Mediation Agreement, each party agrees to waive all interests in any other . . . retirement benefits.” It then provided that husband was entitled to benefits under the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan and that, under that plan, wife was entitled to medical care benefits and a deferred annuity benefit based on husband’s full monthly retired pay. The final sentence of paragraph 2.7 obligated the parties to execute “the Qualified Domestic Relations Order” for wife’s entitlement to the Navy benefits. (Emphasis added). In addition to the waiver of all interests in other retirement benefits set forth in paragraph 2.7, other paragraphs of the postnuptial agreement stated that all matters in dispute had been settled with a mutual release of claim to other marital property.  Hence this court concludes that the contract is not ambiguous. Accordingly this court held that the trial court did not err in its interpretation of the parties’ postnuptial agreement and that the agreement, incorporated in the divorce decree, was an adjudication of all equitable rights of the parties in their marital property, including wife’s entitlement to husband’s Navy retirement benefits. family mediation services

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