Division of Property

Georgia is an “equitable distribution state,” meaning that a divorce does not necessarily always result in a 50/50 split of property down the middle.  Instead, the court looks at what is “equitable” which just means “fair.”  A lot goes into the analysis of what, exactly, is fair.  Generally speaking, a judge will try to split marital property down the middle, unless there exists a reason not to do so.

What is Marital Property?

Many clients start out in our office by saying “we own two cars and we don’t have kids.”  While that sounds simple enough, the reality is that the division of marital property can be much more complicated.  Marital property is any asset or debt that was acquired during the marriage, with a few exceptions.  So, marital assets include things like:

  • marital homes (the house and the land it rests upon)
  • cars
  • tools
  • clothing
  • furniture
  • bank accounts
  • retirement accounts
  • stocks, bonds, etc.
  • pets
  • dishes
  • guns
  • ATVs

Marital property also includes debts like:

  • credit cards
  • student loan debt
  • home equity loans
  • car loans
  • mortgages

How is Marital Property Divided?

There are a number of factors that courts consider when deciding how to divide marital property:

First, the court looks at the conduct of the parties.  Did one spouse commit adultery that eventually led to the downfall of the marriage?  If so, then the court may lean towards giving more of the marital property to the other spouse.  Did one party have a knack for racking up needless debt?  If so, then the court may lean toward letting that spouse keep that debt.

Second, the court looks at how long the marriage lasted.  If the marriage was only for a year or two, then it’s more likely that the court will simply split everything down the middle.  If, however, the couple has been married for 20 years, then there will be a lot more to consider with respect to what the couple accumulated and how they did so.

Third, the court considers the parties’ purpose and intent at the time that the property was acquired.  If a $20,000 fishing boat was purchased, but one spouse despised fishing, then the fisherman will likely keep the boat.

Fourth, the judge will examine the parties’ contributions.  This includes contributions to the marital property and to the family unit.  While one spouse may have provided the majority of the family’s income, the other spouse may have contributed more with respect to upkeep of the home, meals, the family lifestyle, etc.

Finally, the judge will always consider whether an asset or debt qualifies as “separate property,” meaning that it is not subject to division.  Anything a party owned prior to being married qualifies as separate property.  However, separate property can also include an inheritance or a gift, even if it was received during a marriage.

Need Help?

The division of marital property in Georgia is extremely fact dependent, and you’ll want to be sure that you present the evidence in the most persuasive way possible.  This starts with accumulating a list of assets and valuing them, but this is only one piece of the puzzle.  If you are going through a divorce, or if you’re just contemplating it, call Brad Dixon at (912) 525-0555 to Schedule Your Case Evaluation

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