Equitable Division of Marital Property
Unlike other states, Georgia is not a community property state where everything acquired in the marriage is split 50/50. Under Georgia domestic relations laws, marital assets and debts are fairly divided based on the equitable distribution of assets standard.
Under this law, each spouse is entitled to an “equitable” or “fair” share of the marital property. This does not always mean equal shares. Each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage are considered.
Factors that impact asset division:
- The Length of the Marriage
- Health & Age of Both Spouses
- Any Marital Misconduct, Abuse, or Neglect
- Separate vs. Marital Property
- The Value of Marital Assets vs. Debts
- Both Spouses’ Standards of Living
- Child Custody & Living Arrangements
- Any Dissipation of Marital Assets
- The Needs & Circumstances of Both Spouses
- Both Spouses’ Contributions as Wage Earners, Caregivers, Parents, Etc.
- One Spouse’s Assistance in the Other’s Earning Power
Common Marital Assets & Debts to Divide
Generally, anything purchased by a married couple during the marriage is considered marital property. This includes the money saved, any property purchased, and all accumulated debt, including:
- Homes and other properties
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Stocks & Investments
- Cars, boats, and RVs
- Artwork and antiques
- Credit card debt
- Property and income taxes (federal and state)
- Business Assets
Marital versus Separate Property
Georgia classifies marital and separate property accordingly:
- Marital property: All earnings and everything acquired with those earnings during the marriage; all debts incurred.
- Non-marital property: Gifts, inheritances, personal injury awards, and vested options acquired by one spouse before the marriage.
Property Division: Advocacy & Asset Protection
Dividing marital property is one of the most emotionally charged issues in a divorce. Sometimes one spouse may try to intimidate the other or take advantage of a financial disparity to force an unfair settlement. You should not accept less than a fair split of any property acquired during the marriage.
With decades of experience, our property division attorneys know Georgia law and how to protect your interests when it comes to securing a fair portion of the marital estate. Let us explain your options and provide answers regarding:
Dividing Stock Options
Stock options are often a part of an employee’s benefits. Stocks are marital property if the stock is acquired or vested because of either party’s “labor and investments” during the marriage. The court considers the contributions of the lower-income-earning spouse or a spouse who sacrificed their career and income to support the other spouse’s education or profession.
Married couples who own a business together have a few options after divorce:
- Sell the business & split the profits;
- One spouse can buy out the other’s share; or
- Maintain a business partnership as divorced individuals.
If one spouse owned a business before the marriage, the court often regards at least a portion of it to be marital assets. Oftentimes, the company will have increased in value during the marriage due to both spouses’ financial and non-financial contributions.
Who Keeps the House?
For many Marietta families, their family home is a significant investment. If both spouses own the home, there are a few options when it’s time to divide assets:
- One spouse buys the other’s portion;
- The house is appraised and sold, with profits split after paying the mortgage or other liens; or
- The house is appraised and awarded with other assets of equal value, such as stocks.
During the divorce, the children’s primary caregiving parent is usually allowed to remain in the family home, regardless of ownership.
My Spouse Cheated; Shouldn’t I Get Everything?
Most people file for no-fault divorce in Georgia on the basis that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” However, adultery is a consideration under Georgia Law (§ 19-5-3). The court can consider proof of adultery when ruling on child custody and marital property division.
It is unlikely that a non-adulterous spouse would receive all the marital assets in the divorce. Still, proof of an affair can be used as a factor during negotiation, mediation, and litigation if:
- The innocent spouse condoned the adultery after learning of the affair.
- The innocent spouse filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
We’re Ready to Help with Marital Division
Dividing the marital estate is a critical part of any divorce. The process becomes even more complicated and potentially contentious based on what’s involved and both spouses’ willingness to compromise.
You are essentially dissolving a legal entity and are entitled to a fair portion of what you have built as a couple. So don’t feel pressured to accept a disproportionate settlement or accept that you don’t have claims to certain property. Your attorney should know your goals and how to accomplish them.
Our team assists with every aspect of dividing marital property:
- Uncovering Hidden Assets
- Dividing Retirement Funds & Investment Accounts
- Accurately Assigning Business Valuations
- Splitting Up Joint Real Estate Ventures
- Ensuring the Equitable Distribution of Assets
- Negotiating Favorable Support, Custody, & Settlement Terms