Generally, a trial court will determine the status of separate property based on the conveyance of the property into joint names, contributions made towards the property from both parties, and the source of funds used to maintain and pay down the mortgage during the marriage. Georgia’s Supreme Court recently affirmed the trial court’s decision to award separate property to the wife in Pina v. Pina. In Pina v. Pina, the Husband contended that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding the Wife her separate property without sufficient evidence of value.
The Wife owned real property located in Dorchester, Massachusetts prior to the parties marriage in 1998. In 2005, the Wife transferred the Dorchester property into a trust, which was created for the benefit of her children. During the marriage, the property remained separate from the marital estate and interest was never conveyed to the Husband. The Wife testified that the rents earned on the property were kept in a separate bank account and used to pay down the mortgage. The Husband performed maintenance work on the property, but he was paid for all work performed and reimbursed for any expenses he incurred. Additionally, at some point during the marriage, the Husband used a portion of the Dorchester home as a commercial recording studio rent free.
Supreme Court Ruling
The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s award of the Dorchester property to the wife because the Husband lacked evidence showing unpaid maintenance work was performed, testimony of the Wife that Husband was paid for such work, the Husband’s rent-free use of a portion of the home for commercial purposes, and the fact that rents earned on the property were used to pay down the mortgage. You can review full details of the case here.
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