Federal Judicial Estoppel
Benton v. Benton, 2006 Ga. LEXIS 241, No. 06-A-0605 (GA April 25, 2006).
The husband and wife were involved in a pending divorce action, wherein the wife had asked for alimony and a division of property, when the wife filed a Chapter 7 petition. Her Statement of Financial Affairs identified the divorce action, but she did not list any entitlement to alimony, maintenance, support or property settlements in Schedule B, Personal Property. The husband moved for summary judgment in state court based on federal judicial estoppel, which motion was denied. The wife then moved to re-open her bankruptcy case and amend Schedule B. Her motion was unopposed and granted.
On appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed, holding that estoppel was inapplicable where a party successfully amended a bankruptcy petition to include the claim. The wife disclosed the pending case, and it was within the discretion of the trial court to determine whether the wife acted with diligence in amending her petition to include her claim for support. Courts should also be hesitant to invoke federal judicial estoppel to defeat a spouse’s right to support and an equitable division of property.