Marital asset division is one of the most important parts of the divorce process in Georgia. Deciding how to divide up the property and assets that the parties have accumulated during their marriage can become complicated. Georgia family courts use the equitable distribution process. Judges attempt to divide the parties’ assets based on fairness. As a result, Georgia’s family court judges don’t always divide assets equally between the two parties.
Unlike states that follow community property laws, Georgia and other equitable distribution states use multiple factors to divide the parties equitably. If you are in the process of seeking a divorce, hiring an experienced lawyer is essential. The skilled family law attorneys at Carter/Pilgrim can help you throughout the marital asset division process, ensuring that you receive a fair amount of property when the divorce is finalized. Contact our Atlanta law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.
Classifying Assets As Marital Property
The first step in the marital asset division is to classify assets as marital and separate property. Georgia family court judges only divide the marital property of the spouses. The separate property will belong to the spouse who owns it after the divorce becomes finalized. Marital property includes all property and assets the spouse has acquired during their marriage, including the following assets:
- Real estate
- Retirement plans
- Savings accounts
Gifts that the spouses gave each other during the marriage are also considered marital property. Gifts the spouses received from a third party or an inheritance that one spouse receives during the marriage are not considered marital property. Separate property includes all of the assets and property that each spouse owns separately before the marriage began. Sometimes, separate property can become marital property. For example, when one spouse purchases a house before the marriage, but later adds the other spouse’s name to the deed during the marriage, the house is considered marital property.
The Equitable Division of Marital Property
Under Georgia law, family court judges use an equitable distribution method to engage in marital asset division. Sometimes people think equitable distribution means judges will divide up the property equally, but this is not the case. When the parties cannot agree between themselves as to how to divide up their property, a jury or judge will step in and decide how to divide the property up in a way that is most fair to both parties.
There is no set formula used by courts in Georgia. A judge may decide to award more marital property to a wife who has chosen to stay at home and parent children. In comparison, another judge could decide to do the opposite and award more marital property to the husband. Georgia courts use several factors to determine how to divide up marital property, including the following:
- The income of each spouse
- The earning potential of each spouse
- The separate assets and financial status of each spouse
- The conduct of each spouse towards the other spouse during the marriage
- Any conduct that caused wasting of the marital assets
- Debts belonging to one or both spouses
- The future needs of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- The health of each spouse
- The age of each spouse
- Child support payments or alimony payments
Protecting Your Interests During the Division of Marital Property
The equitable distribution process is not always fair. Judges have a significant amount of discretion when it comes to deciding which spouse will receive the most marital property. One way you can protect yourself and your interests is to hire an experienced divorce lawyer before you begin the marital property division process. A skilled lawyer will make sure the judge or the jury has a complete picture of all of your marital property and any relevant factors.
At Carter/Pilgrim, we help our clients provide the court with an accurate and full inventory of all of their assets, the amount of retirement savings they have, interest from any investments, company bonuses, travel rewards, and anything else of monetary value. After we complete an accurate valuation of all of the marital property, we help our clients write out their mental, emotional, monetary, and physical needs.
We help them list specific ways they’ve contributed to their spouse’s success during the marriage and anything else of importance that will help them receive a fair amount of assets. Compiling all of this information is often complicated and can be a lengthy process, depending on the client’s unique situation. It’s best to discuss your situation with your attorney before you begin negotiating with your spouse.
Georgia’s Source of Funds Rule
Typically, the most valuable asset a person owns during his or her lifetime is their home. In many cases, our clients are concerned about the division of their home. Perhaps they raised their children in the home and don’t want to lose it. Or, the thought of moving to a new home is too distressing. There are several different ways that Georgia family courts handle the division of a couple’s home.
The first consideration is whether or not the home is a separate or marital asset. If the home is a separate asset, the spouse who owns it will receive the home in full after the divorce is finalized. Georgia uses a source of funds rule when dividing houses that have both marital and non-marital funds. It is important to hire an experienced lawyer to help you through the marital asset division process. If keeping your home is extremely important to you, your lawyer can help you negotiate with your spouse to keep the home.
Contact Our Experienced Divorce Lawyers Today
If you are considering divorce or have already begun the divorce process, speaking to an experienced attorney is essential. Contact the skilled divorce lawyers at Carter/Pilgrim today to schedule your initial consultation.