Sparks v. Sparks, 43597
|Supreme Court of Georgia
|256 Ga. 788,353 S.E.2d 508
|SPARKS v. SPARKS.
|12 March 1987
William G. Hasty, Jr., Roach, Hasty & Geiger, Canton, Sam P. Burtz, for John Thomas Sparks, Jr.
Martin B. Findley, Cumming, for Nancy Anita Broome Sparks.
This granted discretionary appeal concerns the issue of whether the former husband is barred from seeking an equitable division of the parties' marital residence, which was acquired during the marriage, because he transferred title to the wife for the purpose of shielding the home from a potential judgment creditor.
The parties, John and Nancy Sparks, were married in 1973 and purchased the marital residence in 1974. At the time of the purchase the house was titled in John's name. In 1982 John transferred title to the house to Nancy for the purpose stated above. At the parties' divorce trial Nancy contended that the house was an interspousal gift and was not subject to equitable division. John contended that he did not intend for the house to be a gift and instead insisted that the transfer created a resulting trust in his favor. The trial court charged the jury that if it concluded that John had made a gift of the house, then the house was to be considered the separate property of Nancy. It also charged that if the jury found that the parties did not intend for the house to be a gift, then the house would be subject to equitable division.
The jury found that there was not a valid gift of the house from John to Nancy, and in equitably dividing the residence the jury awarded John a 66 and 2/3 percent interest. Nancy subsequently filed a motion for new trial, making a twofold argument based on Carden v. Carden, 253 Ga. 546, 322 S.E.2d 226 (1984). She first asserted that under Carden John was barred from claiming a resulting trust in the residence, and that title to the residence therefore vested in her, rendering it her separate property. She also argued that under the equitable unclean-hands maxim John was barred from seeking an equitable division of the house because of the fraudulent nature of the transfer to her. The trial court agreed with Nancy's first argument and granted her motion for new trial. On appeal we are concerned with the propriety of the grant of a new trial.
1. We begin with an examination of Nancy's assertion that under Carden John was barred from claiming a resulting trust in the residence, and that title to the residence therefore vested in her, rendering it her separate property. Assuming without deciding that John's intent in transferring the residence was fraudulent, we agree that he was barred from seeking the imposition of a resulting trust, but we disagree that the property became Nancy's separate property. In Carden we held that the former husband was barred from claiming a resulting trust in property which he fraudulently transferred to his former wife during the existence of the marriage, because he had unclean hands and could not seek the aid of equity to obtain relief from the transaction. Carden, supra, 253 Ga. at 547-548, 322 S.E.2d 226. Because of that holding, title to the transferred property remained in the former wife. Significantly, Carden did not concern the issue whether such property became the separate property of the former wife or was instead to be considered marital property subject to equitable distribution.
That question, however, is answered by our recent...
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