When you divorce in Georgia, all property accumulated during the marriage needs to be divided between you and your spouse. Most divorcing spouses negotiate the division themselves or seek assistance from a mediator in order to avoid the time, expense, and stress of a contested divorce. But if you cannot reach an agreement, the court will have to make that decision.
Separate Vs. Marital Assets
The division process begins by taking a thorough inventory and categorizing every asset as separate or marital property. The law defines marital property as nearly everything acquired during the marriage, even if only one person’s name is on the title; while separate property consists of assets that either:
- Belonged to one spouse prior to the marriage or
- Were received during the marriage by one spouse as an inheritance or gift from a third party.
There are instances where separate and marital property can become commingled. For example, if you inherited a cottage from your parents and used marital funds to renovate it, your spouse would be entitled to share in any increased value resulting from the renovations. In cases like these, identifying separate vs. marital assets may require appraisals and recommendations from professionals.
Dividing Marital Property in a Divorce
Georgia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the judge will attempt to divide the marital estate as equitably, or fairly, as possible. Instead of splitting everything 50-50 between you and your spouse, Georgia courts review a variety of factors to determine what arrangement is fair to both sides. They include:
- Each spouse’s income and earning potential
- The financial status of each spouse
- Each person’s future needs
- Each person’s contribution to marriage (financial and non-financial)
- The separate assets owned by each person
- Where the couple’s children will live
- Whether one party wasted marital assets to spite the other
If the marital estate includes pension plans, retirement benefits, and other property that cannot be liquidated, the court will usually issue a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) dividing them into two accounts.
The goal of a court-ordered property division is to make each person as “whole” as possible after the divorce, with neither side being left in financial difficulty. Analyzing the above factors make it easier to reach the best decision.
Unfortunately, it is not unusual for one spouse to hide marital assets to prevent them from being divided. If you have reason to believe that your spouse might try to conceal money or property, your divorce attorney can help you engage the services of a forensic accountant to prove any wrongdoing and prevent you from being deprived of your fair share of the marital estate.
Contact a Georgia Divorce Attorney
If you are divorcing in Georgia, protect your interests by working with an experienced divorce attorney. At Atlanta Family & Immigration Law, we will advocate for you and seek a property settlement that fairly reflects your financial situation and contributions to the marriage. For more information, please call (678) 679-6415 or contact us today.