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Law School Case Brief

Gant v. Gant - 237 Va. 588, 379 S.E.2d 331 (1989)


Va. Code Ann. § 20-111 states that upon the entry of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony, all contingent rights of either consort in the real and personal property of the other then existing, or thereafter acquired, including the right of survivorship in real or personal property title to which is vested in the parties as joint tenants or as tenants by the entirety, with survivorship as at common law, shall be extinguished, and such estate by the entirety shall thereupon be converted into a tenancy in common.


The first wife and her husband, contemplating reconciliation, purchased a house and lot together and executed a deed that purported to convey an estate by the entirety with words of survivorship. They lived there together but never remarried. The man eventually married his second wife. After his death, the second wife filed a bill of complaint for partition. The chancellor dismissed the suit. 


Did the trial court err in holding that the first wife held the sole interest in property that she purchased with her ex-husband after their divorce?




The court held that Va. Code Ann. § 20-111 took effect upon an entry of the decree of divorce and affected interests in property owned by the parties at that time but that it had no effect upon property acquired after a final divorce. The court held that parties formerly married to each other were free to hold property jointly under the exception contained in Va. Code Ann. § 55-21 as were any other parties. Although the court held that they lacked one of the essential unities prerequisite to the creation of a tenancy by the entirety, they could become joint tenants, and if the instrument that created the estate manifested the requisite intention, the joint tenancy would be clothed with the common-law right of survivorship, unaffected by Va. Code Ann. § 55-20.

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