Law School Case Brief
Anderson v. Anderson - 274 Ga. 224, 552 S.E.2d 801 (2001)
The construction of a contract should be governed by the intent of the parties as expressed in the entire contract. A contract must be construed so as to reconcile its different provisions and to reject a construction that leads to a contradiction.
Before wife Tami Flowers Anderson and husband William Harvey Anderson were married, they entered into an “Agreement In Contemplation Of Marriage” wherein the wife expressly acknowledged that “she could be receiving substantially less sums of money by the AGREEMENT should the parties become divorced than she might in any subsequent divorce action” and that its provisions were “fair and equitable and satisfactory to her.” The agreement also provided that the wife waived “all future claims to alimony, attorney's fees, or an equitable distribution of property that is not specified within this agreement.” With regard to property distribution, Paragraph 6 of the agreement specified that “all assets and income derived from the date of their marriage forward shall be the assets of and shall be subject to equal division (50percent/50percent) between the parties.” The wife moved for partial summary judgment on her entitlement under the pre-nuptial agreement to receive one-half of the interest from the certificates of deposit as an equitable division of property. The Court, however, held that the wife was not entitled to one-half of the interest of the certificates of deposit. The wife claimed that the trial court erred in making a final ruling as to the parties' respective rights in the certificates of deposit.
In a case involving a pre-nuptial agreement, did the trial court err in holding that the wife was not entitled to one-half of the interest from the certificates of deposit and that she had no claim on the husband's income?
On interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed the judgment. The Court held that the trial court's order regarding the certificates was entered in connection with that motion and did not deal with the request for temporary alimony. The wife herself invoked the ruling on the interpretation of the pre-nuptial agreement, and the trial court did not commit any procedural error. The certificates were not owned by the husband, but by the trust created when he divorced his first wife. The certificates were not acquired after the parties' marriage. The interest paid to the husband was remitted to the trust. Therefore, the wife was not entitled to one-half of the interest. The agreement clearly specified an equitable division of all assets and income derived from the date of the marriage, not all assets and income earned after the marriage. The trial court properly construed the term “income” in Paragraph 6 as meaning “the increase in value of assets subject to that equitable division of property provision of the agreement.” The wife could recover her portion of the investment income earned by the marital assets.
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