Georgia is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, between the spouses in a divorce. Equitable distribution intends to protect the interests of both parties and ensure that each spouse has the resources they need to move on with their life after the divorce.
What is Marital Property?
Marital property is all property that is obtained during the marriage, regardless of who holds the documents proving they own the property.
Here are some specific examples of what is often considered marital property in Georgia:
- The marital home, even if it is only in one spouse’s name
- Cars, even if they are only in one spouse’s name
- Bank accounts, even if they are only in one spouse’s name
- Retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs
- Investments like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
- Personal property, like jewelry, electronics, collections, and furniture
What is Considered Separate Property?
Separate property is property that someone owned before they got married or property that one spouse acquires during the marriage through gift, inheritance, or bequest. Separate property is not considered part of the property that will be equitably divided in a divorce.
How is Marital Property Divided in Georgia?
When dividing marital property in Georgia, the court will consider several factors, including:
- How much each spouse contributed to the process and finances required to obtain the property
- The length of the marriage
- The financial situation of each spouse
- The needs of the children, if any
Fair, Not Equal
The court is not required to divide marital property equally, but it must divide the property fairly. Fair could mean the court may award one spouse more property than another, depending on the abovementioned factors.
Examples of Equitable Distribution
Georgia law requires equitable division of assets and liabilities. Determining how property will be divided can get complicated. Remember that your case is unique, and you should consult a qualified attorney to advise what laws may apply to your situation.
Here are some examples of how equitable distribution might work in Georgia:
A couple has been married for ten years. During the marriage, the husband works full-time, and the wife stays home to raise the children. The husband earns significantly more money than the wife. The couple owns a marital home, two cars, and a retirement account. In this case, the court might award the wife a larger share of the marital property, given her contributions to the family and her lesser earning capacity.
A couple has been married for 20 years. During the marriage, both spouses work full-time and earn similar salaries. The couple owns a marital home, two cars, and two retirement accounts. In this case, the court might divide the marital property equally, given the spouses’ equal contributions to the marriage.
A couple has been married for 30 years. During the marriage, the husband starts a successful business. The wife works part-time and also helps out with the business. The couple owns a marital home, two cars, a business, and several investment accounts. In this case, the court might award the husband a larger share of the marital property, given his contributions to the business.
Protect Your Interests in a Georgia Divorce
If you are facing a divorce in Georgia, it is essential to understand your rights to equitable distribution. If you have any questions about how equitable distribution might work in your case, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Collect Financial Records
Gather your financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, and investment statements. Access to your financial information will help you and your attorney understand the full scope of your marital assets and debts.
Understand Your Assets
Get an appraisal of the marital home and any other assets you own. A review of what you have will help you determine the value of your assets and ensure that you receive a fair share in the property division.
Plan to Compromise, or Go to Court
Be prepared to compromise. It is unlikely that you will get everything you want in a divorce. It is important to be willing to compromise to reach a settlement agreement. Be prepared to negotiate with your spouse about the division of property. Reaching an agreement with your spouse is often possible without going to court. However, if you cannot agree, you should be prepared to litigate your case.
Find Legal Representation As Soon As Possible
Discussing your case with an attorney who can examine your unique circumstances and work with you on a plan is essential to protect yourself. Don’t put off finding a lawyer; don’t sign settlement agreements, divorce decrees, or other legal documents without having them reviewed by your attorney.
Ensure you are honest and transparent with your attorney; they need as many details as possible to help you. Your attorney needs to have a clear understanding of your financial situation and your goals for the divorce to represent you effectively.
Lunn Law Cares About Your Case
Equitable distribution is a complex process, and it is vital to understand your rights if you are facing a divorce in Georgia. By consulting with an experienced family law attorney, you can ensure that your interests are protected and that you receive a fair share of the marital property.