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Oshinaike v. Oshinaike

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

June 23, 2016

MARCIA OSHINAIKE, Appellant,
v.
SOLOMON ADEDOLAPO OSHINAIKE, Appellee.

          Argued January 20, 2016

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DRB-3663-14) (Hon. Peter A. Krauthamer, Trial Judge)

          Emily Stolzenberg, with whom Jonathan M. Dana was on the brief, for appellant.

          Chidi A. Ogolo for appellee. Before Blackburne-Rigsby and McLeese, Associate Judges, and King, Senior Judge.

          BEFORE: Blackburne-Rigsby and McLeese, Associate Judges; and King, Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and for the reasons set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the case is remanded for the trial court to revise the divorce decree to reflect appellee's waiver of any right to appellant's Foreign Service pension, annuity, and survivor's benefits.

          OPINION

          McLeese, Associate Judge

         Appellant Marcia Oshinaike seeks review of the trial court's ruling that Ms. Oshinaike's former husband, appellee Solomon Oshinaike, did not waive his rights with respect to retirement benefits that Ms. Oshinaike accrued as a Foreign Service officer. We reverse.

         I.

         Mr. Oshinaike and Ms. Oshinaike married in 1989. At that time, Ms. Oshinaike worked for a private employer. Ms. Oshinaike joined the State Department in 1992 and became a Foreign Service officer in 2005. In 2011, the Oshinaikes executed an agreement concerning the assignment of property in the event of divorce. That agreement states, among other things, that "Solomon Oshinaike waives all rights to Marcia Oshinaike's pension and survivor benefits." In 2013, the parties executed a similar agreement stating, among other things, that Mr. Oshinaike "waive[s] all rights to Marcia Oshinaike's pension, federal health benefits, annuity, and survivor benefits." Both agreements also included language indicating that Ms. Oshinaike waived her rights to Mr. Oshinaike's corresponding benefits.

         Ms. Oshinaike filed for divorce in 2014. During the divorce proceedings, Ms. Oshinaike sought a declaration that Mr. Oshinaike had validly waived his right to retirement benefits that Ms. Oshinaike had accrued as a Foreign Service officer. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion. In pertinent part, Ms. Oshinaike testified as follows. Ms. Oshinaike drafted both agreements, which were intended to provide for a division of property that would avoid a contested divorce. At the time of the agreements, Ms. Oshinaike's only pension and survivor benefits arose from her employment with the Department of State and as a Foreign Service officer. Mr. Oshinaike knew that Ms. Oshinaike was in the Foreign Service and that she had only one pension. Mr. and Ms. Oshinaike discussed the agreements, and Mr. Oshinaike understood them. It was very clear to both Mr. and Ms. Oshinaike that the agreements referred to Ms. Oshinaike's Foreign Service pension.

         Mr. Oshinaike testified that he was aware that Ms. Oshinaike worked in the Foreign Service and that she had a pension because of that employment. Mr. Oshinaike believed that his wife had some kind of benefits or saving plan in connection with her prior private employment, but he was not sure about the nature of those benefits. Mr. Oshinaike believed that Ms. Oshinaike had retirement benefits from her initial employment with the State Department that were separate from Ms. Oshinaike's retirement benefits as a Foreign Service officer. Mr. Oshinaike did not intend to waive his rights with respect to Ms. Oshinaike's Foreign Service pension. Moreover, Mr. Oshinaike did not understand the agreements to waive those rights, because such a waiver must be explicitly stated and the agreements do not specifically state that Mr. Oshinaike was waiving his rights to that pension.

         The trial court ruled as a matter of law that the agreements do not validly waive Mr. Oshinaike's rights with respect to Ms. Oshinaike's Foreign Service pension. The trial court explained that, under 22 U.S.C. § 4054(a) (2006), an agreement to waive spousal rights to a Foreign Service pension must "expressly provide[]" for such waiver. In the trial court's view, such a waiver must include a specific reference to a Foreign Service pension. Because the agreements in this case do not specifically mention a Foreign Service pension, the trial court found them legally inadequate to waive Mr. Oshinaike's ...


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