For those who oppose gay marriage, case 04-CV-270 is a perfect example why all citizens should have the right to marry. This case has been bogged down in Paulding county Georgia, wasting precious tax payer’s money
By not having marriage rights and the benefit of divorce, only complicates and wastes government resources in an already over burdened court system
This case has been going on now for over 3 years with no end in sight. Tim Quinn’s position is it should be viewed as a divorce and Mr. Bengtson position is that it’s a contract case. The only legal argument afforded him under the law.
Mr. Quinn’s persistent push to make the courts redefine the law only confuses and delays the proceedings not to speak of the pain and mounting legal costs endured by the defendant, Mark Bengtson and Mr. Quinn alike
Equitable distribution laws as defined under Georgia Divorce, does not apply to non-married couples. This case is about property ownership, a pure and simple contract case.
Under current Georgia law, when two unmarried people are listed on the title of a property, then they both have equal ownership.
Mr. Quinn has tried over and over again to cloud the issue from claims of making more money over the period of ownership to contributing more to the construction of the home as justification to a larger piece of the pie.
Again under Georgia law, this argument has no weight.
A simple example would be if a friend or family member decided to add you to the deed of a piece of property, they have gifted you that property. Even if Mr. Bengtson had not contributed a dime to the property, he still owns ½ under current Georgia Law.
Again, Mr. Quinn trying to use manipulate the law by claiming equitable distribution statues under Georgia Divorce law as a way to win his case.
This opens up another can of worms
He is basically asking the courts redefine property ownership laws. Dose that mean if a family member gifts you a piece of property then he or she can go to court and anytime and get it back.
I think most would agree that we as a society don’t ask for a gift back when things go sour in our relationships.
Understandably, the court is grappling on how to handle this case. Paulding County being a conservative county and deeply religious, would rather not deal with this as not to have to redefine marriage or even worse property ownership laws.
There is no doubt that Marriage rights, for all are needed, however by provoking the courts only delays any real chance that legal reform will ever come to Georgia.
Gay breakup heads to court in Paulding County
Lack of marriage rights hurts gay couples when relationships end
By DYANA BAGBY
For 20 years, Mark Bengtson shared his life with Timothy Quinn and said he believed they would be together forever.
The two settled down in Paulding County and purchased a home together in Acworth in 1998.
But three years ago, their long-term relationship soured, and the two split. On Dec. 10, 2002, a month following the breakup, their house and much of what they owned was totally destroyed by fire.
Now the former couple is battling in court over what remains of their assets, without the benefit of divorce procedures available when heterosexual marriages dissolve.
Quinn filed a civil lawsuit against Bengtson in January 2004 in Paulding County Superior Court, and Bengtson countersued in March 2004.
Quinn’s lawsuit claims breach of contract and asks for a writ of equitable partition petition to sell the property and divide the proceeds based on how much each man invested in the house as well as their initial contributions.
The couple is also arguing over how to divide insurance payments on the loss from the fire. Bengtson and Quinn’s homeowner’s insurance, Cincinnati Insurance Company, paid them an insurance claim for the loss.
The check was endorsed by both men and deposited into the attorney trust account of Atlanta’s John M. Israel & Associates on Feb. 27, 2003, “to remain in trust until settlement by mutual agreement of the parties,” court documents filed in January 2004 show.
Another insurance check was also sent to both Quinn and Bengtson for the loss. Court documents show Bengtson has possession of that check.
“It’s a total nightmare,” Bengtson said. “Honestly, I thought this would never happen. I thought we would go to the grave together.”
Bengtson said he believes he is entitled to 50 percent of everything — the insurance money as well as sale of the land — because of an oral agreement the two shared.
“No matter what kind of relationship, from a moral and ethical standpoint, everything should be evenly split,” he said.
But Quinn and his attorney, John Israel, argue that Quinn deserves more than half because Quinn made much more money during the couple’s relationship, documents show. An oral agreement cannot hold up in court, they argue.
‘A contract case’
In a heterosexual marriage, legal divorces are handled in a specific arena to determine the division of assets, as well as other issues such as alimony, child custody and visitation, and even who gets the family pet.
But even in marriages, Georgia is an equitable property state, meaning that there is no mandate to divide marital property equally, according to Scott Shaw, a divorce attorney in Decatur.
“Nothing in the laws says property has to be divided 50-50 or 60-40,” Shaw said. “Usually, you start off with 50-50, and then argue from there.”
For gay couples, Shaw said contracts are needed to ensure how property is divided, since divorce law does not apply to them.
“They’re basically two people living together, like a man and a woman who are not married. So they can contract with each other. It is this contract that is needed in court for protection,” he said.
In Bengtson and Quinn’s situation, the court must determine what kind of legally binding contractual agreements were made, said Floyd Farless, Bengtson’s attorney.
“This is a contract case under Georgia law,” Farless said.
Israel, Quinn’s attorney, said the case might be simpler if the two were legally married, but this specific dispute is mostly about contracts.
“If this were a marriage, there would probably be an easier route in front of the court to resolving this issue,” said Israel, who is gay. “But even if we get marriage rights, there is still a lot of friction that comes with breakups, a lot of acrimony.”
Greg Nevins, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a gay legal advocacy group, said gay couples who are not afforded legal marriage rights often face difficulties when it comes to breaking off a relationship.
“One of the benefits of marriage is the orderly way of protecting people through death or dissolutions,” Nevins said.
Dyana Bagby can be reached at [email protected]