It can be difficult to distribute property when a couple decides to pursue a divorce. Divis Law wants to help you understand decide this very basic aspect of divorce.
In Georgia, courts apply the equitable distribution model of property division. It's important to understand that equitable does not mean equal. Equitable means something closer to "fair" or "appropriate under the circumstances." Georgia courts will apply the equitable distribution model to any marital property, which is generally the property that was acquired during the marriage by either spouse.
So, what is equitable distribution then?
The court will look at all relevant factors in deciding what distribution of property is fair and appropriate. Some of the factors a court will look at include:
- The age, background, education, and earning capacity of both parties.
- Duration of the marriage and if there were any prior marriages.
- Each party's opportunity to acquire future income and assets.
- Current income of each party, including potential employability.
- Standard of living during the marriage, inclusive of expenses.
- Assets and liabilities.
- Where the funds to purchase marital property came from.
- Contributions to marital property by each party.
- Contributions of a homemaker.
- Health and other needs of the parties.
- Provisions for the custody of children.
- Marital fault or other conduct of the parties.
- This is not an exhaustive list!
An example of how a court might apply some of these would be awarding the house to the party that is also awarded primary custody of the children; but then awarding less of something else (say a retirement account) to that same party. Another example might be a court awarding retirement earned by only one party during a marriage to a homemaker who, by caring for a house and children, facilitated the earning of that retirement account. Courts have a great deal of flexibility, and, unlike in many states, in Georgia a court can consider the behavior of the parties in making its decision.
The House is Titled Only to Me, so the House is Mine, right?
If you acquired it during your marriage, probably wrong! Title is not as important as when and how you acquired something for purposes of deciding if it's marital property subject to equitable distribution. Property can be separate, non-marital property if it is not acquired as the marital home, for example, through a gift or bequest for the benefit of only one spouse; but given that a house is many Americans' biggest asset, if you are considering divorce and you live in a house owned by you or your spouse, you should consult a attorney. Mis-labeling a major asset like a house can have serious adverse implications.
Call An Expert
If you are going through a divorce, you probably need expert help. Call Divis Law today.