Divorce is never simple. Separating two peoples’ lives can be emotionally and financially stressful. However, a divorce can also be positive – putting you on a path to a new life. For this to happen the property acquired during the marriage must be divided. The goal of the legal process is to create the best possible outcome for all involved parties. It’s important that you understand property division during a divorce so you can talk with your divorce attorney about what to expect.
In Georgia, the courts seek the best possible outcome of property division for all parties involved. This is called the most “equitable” end. It means the divorce will result in a division of assets that is fair and equitable. It’s important to remember that the word “equitable” is different from “equal.”
Defining marital property during the divorce process
When a married couple decides to get a divorce, the issue of who owns what is key. Generally, property that is owned by one person prior to the marriage will be theirs after the marriage has ended – except for property that increased in value during the marriage.
Outside gifts remain the property of the recipient unless the other spouse gave the gift. The same is true about inheritance gifted in the name of a single spouse.
Georgia law has what is called the Source of Funds Rule. It says that if each spouse has given a contribution to property that grew in value over the life of the marriage, the asset is divided physically or monetarily according to what both spouses contributed. The part of the property that was purchased by one person prior to the marriage will remain the sole property of that spouse. Only what is jointly contributed to after the beginning of the marriage will be eligible for division. However, that is not always a simple calculation and may require review by an expert.
Who decides how the marital property is divided?
Not everything is straightforward, which is why appraisers may be hired to assess the value of different items. The same thing happens with real estate when realtors help with selling a house to split the profits. Financials, such as accounts and retirement funds, will likely require a certified professional accountant or possibly even a forensic accountant.
If the couple cannot agree on how to divide their property through their lawyers or a process of mediation with a third party, then the remaining items will be divided by a judge at the final trial.
In this case, what the judge says, goes and the parties must accept the judge’s decision. The most important thing that you can do to protect your property is to choose a divorce lawyer who will fight to get you the most favorable outcome for your case.
Sauls Law Group is experienced with equitable division of property and will aggressively defend your interests during the divorce process. Contact us at (770) 212-9168 for a consultation.