DIVORCE, SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT, PROPERTY DIVISION, LOTTERY WINNINGS
Lottery winnings acquired after the execution of a divorce settlement agreement but before a divorce is granted are marital property, held the 5th Division of the Georgia Court of Appeals, and if not mentioned nor contemplated in the agreement it can be set aside to divide the winnings.
Mary Messick vs. John Messick
Georgia Court of Appeals No. A21A0600
Interlocutory appeal from denial of motion to enforce settlement agreement in divorce case in the Superior Court of Ben Hill County
5th Division Panel Opinion by Chief Judge McFadden issued 18 May 2021, Application for Certiorari filed 7 June 2021, Denied 21 September 2021, Remittitur mailed 8 October 2021
Read the slip opinion, Messick v. Messick, A21A0600
Case Summary: On 5 March 2020 Mary and John Messick executed a settlement agreement that divided their property, including a provision that neither would claim any property in the possession of the other “as of the date of the signing of this agreement” unless otherwise provided. That same day, Mary filed a divorce complaint in which she asked the trial court to incorporate this agreement in a divorce decree. Mary then won the lottery. Answering the complaint, John asked the trial court to set aside the agreement because it didn’t address Mary’s lottery winnings. Mary moved to enforce the agreement. The trial judge denied her motion and set aside the agreement, finding “that the lottery proceeds are marital property subject to division by the [c]ourt [and t]he settlement agreement did not contemplate the acquisition of such property, nor provide for how any such property should be divided.” Mary’s interlocutory appeal was accepted.
Decision: Holding Mary’s lottery winnings are marital property, because she and John were not yet divorced, and the settlement agreement did not specifically mention nor contemplate lottery winnings, the panel concluded the agreement did not address division of any marital property acquired by either Mary or John *after* its execution and affirmed the trial judge.
Practice Notes: READ this case! The panel referred to Mary’s winnings as a “significant marital asset” and focused on its conclusion that the settlement agreement did not specifically divide and dispose of the winnings, in any way, thus concluding the agreement did not dispose of *all* of Mary and John’s marital property. And review your agreement form(s). Perhaps providing for a settlement or at least a generic waiver of any claim against property “hereafter acquired” by a spouse would have changed the result of this case.
Research Messick v. Messick, A21A0600 (2021).
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