What is a Notice of Lis Pendens and How May it Impact My Georgia Divorce Case?
A Notice of Lis Pendens is a powerful legal tool that may be used in the context of divorce. Although a Lis Pendens may be a very effective legal tool if used correctly, many are not aware of what it is or how it may be used during a divorce action.
Lis Pendens is a Latin word that means “pending lawsuit.” Modernly, Lis Pendens refers to a notice of a pending lawsuit that is recorded in county real estate records. A Lis Pendens may be filed by either plaintiff or defendant and its purpose is to provide notice of a claim involving specific real estate to potential buyers and lenders. As mentioned above, a Lis Pendens is a very powerful legal tool that may be employed by a party to a divorce suit because generally, once a Lis Pendens is filed and properly recorded, any transfer of that property by either party will be subject to the final verdict of the jury in the case. O.C.G.A. § 19-5-7.
The effect of a Lis Pendens may be best illustrated with an example: Husband files for divorce against Wife, and contemporaneously with his Complaint for Divorce files a Notice of Lis Pendens concerning the couple’s marital home. The Lis Pendens is properly recorded. During the pendency of the divorce, Wife places the home for sale and eventually sells the home the Buyer. At the end of the divorce matter, the Court in the divorce case awards the marital home to Husband. As a result, Buyer loses the home to Husband, and Buyer must try to get his money back from Wife.
So, although a Lis Pendens does not technically prevent a sale of or loan on real estate, it does do so practically because most prospective buyers, lenders and title insurers are very reluctant to become involved with property that could be adversely impacted by a pending suit. If a Notice of Lis Pendens has been filed in your case, please note that a valid notice of Lis Pendens remains effective only until a final judgment has been entered in your divorce. Vance v. Lomas Mortgage USA, Inc., 263 Ga. 33 (1993). If you have specific questions about how a Lis Pendens affects your specific case, contact a member of our Atlanta Divorce Team.
By A. Latrese Martin, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC