Georgia Divorce Distribution of Property
Georgia uses the "equitable distribution" approach to divide property upon divorce. Under this approach, each spouse takes his separate property and the court divides the property acquired during the marriage on an equitable basis. The courts are generally authorized to effectuate an equitable distribution of all property, real or personal, (including pensions or other employment benefits) acquired by either spouse during the marriage.
Upon divorce, each spouse would be entitled to the "separate property" that each spouse owned prior to the marriage, plus any appreciation the property has earned. "Separate property" would also include any gift, bequest, devise or descent acquired by one spouse before or during the marriage.
Although each spouse would take out of the marriage his or her own separate property, all of the remaining property or "marital property" would be divided under an "equitable distribution" approach. The factors considered by the court in deciding how to equitably divide the property would include:
1. standard of living during marriage;
2. earning capacities of both parties,
3. the education and vocational skills of both parties;
4. current income of both parties;
5. age and heath of the parties;
6. assets, debts, and liabilities of the parties;
7. needs of each of the parties;
8. provisions for the custody of the minor children;
9. each party's contribution to the acquisition of existing marital assets;
10. each party's enhancement of the value of existing marital assets;
11. whether either party has dissipated or diminished the value of the martial assets by wrongful conduct.
Martial property includes pensions. Therefore, the portion of a pension that was earned by one party during the years that the marriage existed can be divided by the court in an equitable manner.
In Georgia, each spouse has an equitable interest in all marital property acquired during the course of the marriage. A minority of states have community property laws in which an equitable interest does not appear until the marriage is final. The ability of either spouse to transfer property during the marriage is not impaired by the equitable interest the couple shares. The only property considered for equitable division is the property that exists at the time of divorce. The marital property may consist of all assets acquired by either spouse, including retirement benefits, and other accounts acquired through employment. Marital property includes jointly titled property or property titled in the name of only one spouse. If non-martial property belonging to one spouse before the marriage is improved or added to during the marriage, then the additional value of the property is subject to equitable distribution.
Most divorcing spouses set out who will pay what debts as part of their marital settlement agreement during the divorce process, and close all of their joint accounts.
The Final Decree of Divorce will not be granted until the parties have resolved all legal issues between them, either by settlement or trial. A divorce could be pending for months or even years until all these issues are resolved. The divorce can be delayed further if one party insists on a trial by jury. In Georgia, either party can demand that a jury decide all financial issues of a divorce, including the equitable division of property.