SAMMAN v. SAMMAN
No. 249877

FACTS
The parties married under Islamic law and executed a Marriage Contract that provided that the husband would pay the wife $15,000 if the parties divorced. The parties were married in a civil ceremony in March 1996. In January 2002, the wife filed for a civil divorce. The Trial Court awarded the wife “the marital home to live in along with the $37,600 marital equity in the home,” in addition to the $15,000 promised in the Marriage Contract, as the Trial Court considered the latter to be a dowry. In February 2002, the parties divorced under Islamic law and the wife signed an acknowledgment that she had received the $15,000 provided under the Marriage Contract. On appeal, the husband argued in part, that the property award should be limited to the $15,000 mentioned in the Islamic Marriage Contract.

ISSUE
Whether property should be subject to equitable distribution where the parties agreed to a specified amount in a religious contract.

RULING
The Appellate Court affirmed the Trial Court’s decision, holding that equitable distribution was proper in this case. The Court referred to a prior appellate case in noting that the issue was not preserved on appeal because the husband failed to plead the Islamic Marriage Contract as an affirmative defense. Therefore, the court could not review the issue. The Court also noted that the Trial Court did consider the agreement made under the Islamic Marriage Contract when it equitably distributed the property.

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