Equitable Division of Assets
SKILLED DIVORCE LAWYER ASSISTING ATLANTA RESIDENTS
Financial matters related to the end of a marriage can be stressful and unpleasant, but the need to resolve them is critical to your future well-being. At Rowsey & Stelter, our divorce attorneys have counseled numerous individuals near the Atlanta area in handling these sensitive family law issues. We can help you understand Georgia law regarding the division of marital assets and assist you in formulating a beneficial agreement. Our team has served people in Roswell, Silver Springs, Marietta, and other nearby communities in Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties.
EQUITABLE DIVISION OF ASSETS IN GEORGIA
In Georgia, the law requires an equitable division of assets and debts between spouses who are seeking a divorce. It is important to remember that “equitable” means fair, rather than equal.
People often enter into a marriage after they have already acquired assets, and many couples acquire assets during their relationship, especially if they have been together for a long time. Each of these assets can be classified as either “separate” property of one of the spouses, or “marital property” owned by the couple jointly. Georgia excludes separate property from its calculation of the division of assets. Consequently, one of the first tasks that a couple must undertake is properly characterizing property as separate or marital.
Separate property includes not only assets owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, but also earnings on that property, anything purchased with it, or any appreciation in its value. Separate property also includes any assets received during marriage as an inheritance or a gift from anyone other than the other spouse.
Separate property only retains its separate character if the spouse does not convert it to a marital asset. For example, if a spouse voluntarily adds the other spouse to a property title, or mixes (“comingles”) separate assets with marital assets such that the separate assets cannot be traced, they may lose their separate character. However, when a couple has invested both separate assets and marital assets in a single property such as a house, a proportion of the asset can still be deemed separate property by application of the “source of funds” rule. This allows the court to divide the asset according to the relative proportion of the separate and marital investments in it.
Once property is properly characterized and the marital assets determined, they must be valued and divided. Some assets may need to be liquidated and the proceeds divided. Occasionally, a couple will agree to continue to jointly own an asset following dissolution of the marriage, but they must nevertheless allocate respective ownership.
There is no set formula for dividing property equitably. However, if the couple cannot arrive at an agreement, a court will review a number of factors to determine what is an equitable division under the circumstances, including:
- The type of property involved;
- The length of the marriage;
- The respective earning power of the spouses;
- The couple’s standard of living during marriage;
- The spouse’s contributions to the marriage, whether in earnings or services;
- Whether one spouse has contributed to the earning power of the other;
- The age and health of the spouses;
- The present and future needs of the spouses;
- Custody arrangements and the needs of children; and
- Each spouse’s conduct regarding the management of marital assets.
No factor has dispositive or any predetermined weight, although circumstances may sway the court to regard some factors as more or less important. For example, if the couple has a disabled child, the earning power of the custodial parent may be discounted and the future needs of that parent given more weight.
EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS WITH A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY IN ATLANTA
Whether you and your spouse are attempting to work out your financial arrangements amicably, or your divorce is bitterly contested, you should consider seeking the advice of an experienced family law lawyer to assist you with the division of assets. Contact Rowsey & Stelter at 770-993-5317 or use our online form on this website. We can help protect your rights during the complex process of accounting for, valuing, and equitably distributing property.