The state of Georgia, along with several other states in the country, recognizes that each spouse has an equitable interest in all marital property. Marital property, generally speaking, is a property that is acquired during the course of the marriage. Unlike states like California that have community property laws in place, equitable distribution in a Columbus divorce does not necessarily mean that each spouse will have an equal 50/50 share of the division of the property.
Understanding the Difference Between Marital & Separate Property in Georgia
Georgia courts must first distinguish between the types of property owned before equitable distribution can take place. In family law cases, the property is classified into two categories: marital and separate. Which category the property falls under is important, bthe ecause only marital property is distributed among the spouses; each spouse gets to keep his or her own separate property and does not have to share it. Georgia courts have set guidelines to determine whether the property is marital or separate. Specifically, each type of property is defined as follows:
- Marital property: this includes all assets and liabilities that were acquired by either spouse during the marriage, no matter how that property is titled. Under Georgia law, marital property is subject to equitable distribution in a Columbus divorce; and
- Separate property: this includes any assets or liabilities that were acquired prior to the marriage, or during the marriage by either spouse by way of a third-party inheritance or gift. Under Georgia law, separate property is not subject to equitable distribution in a Columbus divorce.
How Georgia Courts Divide Marital Property
After a Georgia court has determined what assets are marital property and what assets are separate property, it then has to decide on how to equitably distribute the property between the spouses. Because divorce courts are governed by the concept of fairness – referred to as “courts of equity” – they are given complete discretion in the equitable distribution of marital property. Moreover, because Georgia is not a community property state, the court is not bound by preset formulas or rules when it comes to distribution.
Generally, when determining equitable distribution of marital assets in a Columbus divorce, Georgia courts will consider the following factors in its analysis:
- The current income and future earning capacity of each spouse;
- The separate assets as well as the financial status of each spouse;
- The conduct of each spouse toward the other during the course of the marriage;
- The future financial needs of either spouse, including retirement;
- The personal debt of each spouse; and
- Any wrongful conduct on the part of either spouse that resulted in the waste of marital assets.
Georgia Family Law Attorneys
Not all divorcing spouses in Columbus need to go before a Georgia court to divide marital assets. Through legal counsel, the couple can resolve all issues in their Columbus divorce by entering into a written settlement agreement. If you or someone you know is facing divorce or has questions about Georgia’s equitable distribution rules, contact the experienced Columbus, Ga. family law attorneys at Moffitt Law, LLC to schedule your initial consultation.