In a divorce, all property from the marriage has to be sorted out by the courts. Legally speaking, the courts must turn the 1 household that existed during the marriage into 2 separate households. Among the many things courts must sort out, a universal issue is the division of property, specifically Georgia property division.
Before going to court, a spouse should consider the advice and guidance of a licensed Family Law attorney. Property division laws can be complex, vary from state to state and lawyers have the proper training and experience to tell the judge what a divorcing spouse wants or needs from the property division.
Property Division Divorce Laws in Georgia
The purpose of Georgia property division laws is to make sure that marital property is allocated to each spouse equitably as determined by Georgia case law. Georgia marital property is divided under the considerations of Georgia case law and enforced under O.C.G.A. §19-5-13.
However, the trial court judge receives great discretion when converting Georgia marital property into separate Georgia divorce property.
Georgia is an equitable distribution state. This means that with regard to Georgia divorce assets, anything the spouses brought into a marriage usually will not be included in Georgia divorce assets or Georgia divorce property. The only property that comes into the court's distribution is that which is legally classified as property of the marriage subject to Georgia case law.
What is considered Marital and Non-Marital Property?
Marital property is defined under Georgia case law as any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage with limited exemptions.
Non-marital or separate property is property acquired by inheritance or a gift from someone outside the marriage while the parties are married. This also includes property each spouse had before the marriage.
Dividing Assets and Debt
After the court decides which property is available for distribution, the next step is property valuation. The last step is the allocation of marital property.
Using statutory factors, judges decide how a marriage's assets should be divided. Here is a list of the most common property items and the most common allocation scheme used.
- Cash: Divided equitably among the
- Example 1: A joint savings account has $5,000. The court would most likely award part of the money to each spouse based on each spouses' financial situation.
- Example 2: A joint savings account has $5,000. One spouse contributed $4,000 and the other contributed $1,000. The amount may be divided in a 50-50 split or may be more balanced if the $1,000 contributor has fewer assets than the $4,000 contributor.
- Retirement Plans: Divided based on the
duration of the marriage at the time the benefits accrued, looking at the
present value of the plan and/or survivor benefits.
- Example 1: A spouse got benefits in a retirement plan after working for 25 years and was married for 20 of those years. The ex-spouse would be entitled to a portion of the retirement plan that was acquired during the marriage.
- Example 2: A spouse has an unvested retirement plan. No division takes place until the plan is payable to the spouse who has it.
- Vehicles: Divided based on the values
determined by the court. May be sold or
given to a spouse outright.
- Example 1: A truck is owned by one of the spouses. The truck may be sold with the proceeds to be given to a poorer spouse or the truck may be given outright to one of the spouses.
- Example 2: A boat has a shared title. The boat may be sold with the proceeds going to each spouse equally or the boat may be given to a poorer spouse.
- Insurance: Determined based upon each
spouse's health, availability of alternate insurance and premium payments from
- Example 1: One spouse has covered the other under employer health insurance. The other spouse is in poor health and could not afford alternate health care coverage. The court may order the first spouse to continue covering that spouse for a set time period and/or award a cash payment to the ailing spouse to get alternate insurance.
- Example 2: One spouse has a life insurance policy where the ex-spouse is to get survivor benefits. The court may order the spouse to remain as beneficiary or the spouse may be entitled to a portion of the benefits.
Settling Disputes in a Divorce Case with Property and Asset Division
If a spouse is not complying with the order or you are unhappy with some aspect of the property division, you may go back to the trial court and seek enforcement or modification of the order. The court will then decide how to proceed.
However, the trial court's determinations will not be changed on appeal unless the division was clearly unjust.
Help From a Georgia Property Divorce Lawyer
It can not be stressed enough that retaining a Georgia property divorce lawyer is key to getting the fairest and most equitable result in the property division phase of a divorce. The lawyer can provide professional guidance, keep you informed of likely outcomes and help you present the best arguments and presentation to the trial judge handling the divorce.