Friday, June 16, 2006

Case Law Development: Arbitration Awards must be Final Before Incorporating into Divorce Decrees

Husband and Wife had submitted certain issues to arbitration in their divorce proceeding. After the arbitration was completed but before the award had been delivered to the parties, the trial court issued its decree of divorce, approved the arbitration award made by the arbitrator. After the arbitration order was delivered to the parties over one month later, the husband filed an application to vacate the arbitration award, which the trial court denied.

On appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court noted that it was error for the trial judge to incorporate the arbitration award before it had been finalized by delivery to the parties.  " A court cannot accept and incorporate into a divorce decree an incomplete and unenforceable settlement agreement... Similarly, a court cannot accept and incorporate into a divorce decree an incomplete and unenforceable arbitration award; such an award simply does not exist, in the same manner that an incomplete agreement does not exist.noted that the husband did not attempt to appeal or set aside the trial court's final order." (Citations omitted)

However, Husband's appeal of the trial court's order was untimely, as he had waited for the delivery of the arbitration award to him.  The court held that the trial court's judgment was final on the date that it issued its divorce decree, and all matters in litigation in the action were final on that date, including those submitted for arbitration. The later purported arbitration award was of no effect and the time had past to appeal the trial court's order.  Thus, Husband's petition to vacate the arbitration award should have been dismissed.

Ciraldo v. Ciraldo, 2006 Ga. LEXIS 400  (June 12, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited June 16, 2006)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/06/case_law_develo_15.html

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