The property settlement a spouse receives in divorce is often the principal way he/she is able to weather the transition from married to single life. Loss of income, an increase in household expenses, and paying for the costs of raising a child as a divorced parent all put major strains on a person’s financial resources. Consequently, both spouses have a vested interest in receiving as much marital property as possible, making this issue one of the more contested aspects of divorce.
Examples of common issues that drive conflict over the division of property involve spouses that have limited to no independent financial resources and need the marital property for support, as well as spouses who are responsible for the accumulation of property and do not want to reward the other spouse for their efforts. The best way to avoid these disputes is to execute a prenuptial agreement, but in the absence of that contract, spouses will need to decide between negotiating their own settlement or asking the courts to divide marital property for them. In either case, a basic understanding of how Georgia law treats the division of property in a divorce is important to making good decisions, and a review of this issue will follow below.
What Type of Property Is Divided into a Georgia Divorce?
One of the key aspects of understanding which property a spouse may have rights to claim is identifying what types of property are subject to division. In Georgia, the only marital property may be divided in a divorce, which is generally limited to any assets acquired during the marriage by either spouse, including interspousal gifts. Property owned before the marriage, or acquired by an individual spouse during the marriage through inheritance or gift, is considered separate, and may not be divided by a court. Given how intertwined property becomes during most marriages, drawing this line is not always easy, and the advice a Columbus, Ga divorce attorney should be sought before any agreement is signed.
Standard for Division in Georgia
Once the property of both spouses is categorized as marital or separate, the next step is to determine how marital property should be divided. Georgia follows the equitable distribution model in divorce, which says that property should be divided according to what is most fair under the circumstances of the marriage. Thus, this analysis is very fact specific, and courts have broad discretion when deciding how to allocate marital assets and liabilities. The normal division is 50/50, but marital misconduct can justify awards that give one spouse a greater share. To evaluate what would be fair or just, courts look at a number of factors, including:
- The financial resources of each spouse, especially earnings potential;
- How much property is separate;
- Misconduct by either spouse, particularly the wasting of marital assets;
- The future needs of each spouse; and
- How the spouses treated one another during the marriage.
Further, note that once the divorce case is filed, marital property cannot be validly transferred unless the transfer is to pay for preexisting debts, which acts to stop one spouse from transferring everything away in an effort to deprive the other spouse access to the property.
Whether dividing marital property through a private settlement or by a court’s decision, the stakes are high, and the guidance of an experienced Columbus, Ga divorce attorney is crucial to obtaining a fair outcome.
Seek Legal Advice from a Columbus Divorce Attorney
Securing the appropriate property settlement is a critical part of your future financial stability, but negotiating or litigating this issue is often complicated and heated. Moffitt Law, LLC has years of experience representing clients in divorce in property settlement matters, and are available to discuss the options in your case. Contact the Columbus divorce attorneys at (762) 212-3846 for a free consultation.