Importance of specific language in Georgia divorce settlement agreement
The Georgia Supreme Court recently emphasized the importance of the specific language in a Georgia divorce settlement agreement. In that case, the parties jointly purchased a 27-acre tract of land during their marriage. Gonzalez v. Crocket, 287 Ga. 430 (2010). For financing purposes, they subdivided the property into a five-acre tract upon which the marital residence was built, and a 22-acre tract. Id. In the parties' divorce settlement agreement, the husband received the marital residence, which he was to refinance into his own name, and the wife was to quitclaim her interest in that marital residence to the husband. Id. at 431.
Several years later, the husband filed a Petition for Contempt against the wife for failing to quitclaim the 22-acre tract to him. Id. The trial court denied his petition, ruling that the settlement agreement did not address the 22-acre tract and it, therefore, remained jointly owned by the parties. Id.
The husband appealed, and Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the trial court, affirming a long standing rule that “title to property not described in a verdict or judgment is unaffected by the decree and remains titled in the name of the owners as before the decree was entered.” Id. at 432, citing Messaadi v. Messaadi, 282 Ga. 126, 127 (2007). The settlement agreement only mentioned “the marital residence” and did not even mention the other property. In addition, the parties treated the properties as separate during the marriage and subsequent to the divorce. Since the 22-acre tract was not specifically described in the divorce decree, even though it was adjacent to the property on which the marital residence was located, it remained the joint property of the parties and the wife was not obligated to quitclaim her interest to the husband. Id.