Understanding Georgia’s property division laws in a divorce
If a person is considering divorce in Georgia, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved with the former partner, including how to divide the assets and property that have accumulated during the marriage. Georgia is an “equitable distribution” state, which means the courts attempt to divide the assets fairly, but not always equally.
The first determination when dividing property is distinguishing between marital and separate property. The Georgia Bar Association explains that marital property includes all assets acquired during the marriage, except for items received as a gift from a third party or an inheritance. Separate property, on the other hand, are assets that belonged to each spouse prior to the marriage or were received by inheritance or via a gift from a third party. Gifts between spouses are considered marital property.
How marital property gets divided in a divorce
Once property has been classified, the division of assets can begin. In Georgia, all marital property gets divided between the spouses, while separate property does not. For the most part, each spouse can keep his or her own separate property after a divorce.
Dividing marital property is not as easy as simply dividing it in half. Judges and court officials always aim to attain fairness. There is no set formula in dividing marital property, and so it is up to the individual courts to reach fair resolutions, unless the partners can reach their own agreement through negotiation or mediation.
In determining how to divide the property, Georgia courts consider a number of factors, including the separate assets and financial status of each spouse, the income and earning potential of the couple, their respective conduct toward one another during the marriage, any conduct that resulted in the waste of assets by either spouse, the future needs of either spouse, and all debts. By analyzing each of these factors, courts can divide the property in a way that’s most likely to make each person “whole” after the divorce is finalized.
There are some types of assets that may be difficult to divide, such as retirement benefits, pension plans and other future benefits that cannot be immediately liquidated. Often, Georgia courts will issue a qualified domestic relations order, which divides the assets into two accounts – one for each spouse.
Increasingly, divorcing spouses choose not to leave it up to the courts to divide their assets, due to the costs, time and emotional stress associated with contested divorces. As an alternative, the parties may negotiate the division of their assets and enter into a written agreement.
If you and your spouse are seeking a divorce, it’s important to work with a skilled attorney to explore your options. Speak with a knowledgeable Atlanta divorce lawyer for the sound guidance you need.