While the law in other states clearly delineates rules and guidelines for dividing marital assets, in the state of Georgia this generally falls to a judge’s sole discretion. As such, a judge is given a tremendous amount of leeway to exercise their own judgement in dividing up assets, taking the specific circumstances of the case into account. Everything from the duration of the marriage, the best interest of children and financial considerations both during and after the marriage will play a role in their decision.
One of the most important concepts to understand in a divorce case is separate property.
In a divorce in Georgia, “separate property” means stuff that belongs to just one person and usually stays with that person. It includes things owned before the marriage, like houses, money, and personal stuff. Gifts and inheritances are also considered separate property. If a couple has a prenuptial agreement saying certain things are separate, those things usually stay separate.
Fortunately, it is possible to contest separate property. If the property in question was used for the benefit of the marriage or is commingled with shared marital assets, it will require a strong argument and solid evidence to ensure the property is protected from division.
In the state of Georgia, a process called equitable distribution will determine which assets belong to which spouse during a divorce. The goal of this process is to ensure that both spouses enjoy equal access to marital property following divorce, with that property consisting of assets acquired by either spouse while married.
This process is when separate property is established. During equitable distribution, each asset is presumed to be marital property by default. Either spouse looking to claim it as separate property, and thus prevent it from being shared in the divorce, must furnish evidence proving their sole claim to it. This evidence can take the form of documentation, records, financial statements, deeds and even witness testimony to prove that it was acquired prior to the marriage.
Even assets that were acquired before marriage can be considered marital property if they were intermixed with shared assets. One example would be if a spouse used funds from an inheritance or settlement to finance the launch of a new company.
As mentioned earlier, Georgia law leaves the division of marital assets solely at the judge’s discretion. As such, there are no laws establishing separate rules or guidelines in cases of infidelity. However, a judge may decide to allocate a greater portion of marital assets to a spouse who was wronged, particularly if the adulterous spouse fails to demonstrate remorse or used marital assets to fund the affair.
The best way to ensure that individual property remains separate, is advised to hold larger assets such as real estate or expensive items in your name and maintain a dedicated bank account with personal funds. Before a divorce, this separation can be agreed upon by a pre-nuptial agreement, but even after the marriage has ended a post-nuptial agreement can help determine clear lines of possession and protect assets from being lost in the divorce.
Protecting your property, both at the mediation table and in the courtroom, begins with an initial consultation. For just $450, this confidential meeting will allow you to establish a relationship with the attorney who will be defending you, while also giving you a chance to establish evidence and begin building a strategy.
During this consultation, you’ll be protected by attorney-client privilege, allowing you to share all the details of your divorce, your finances and your assets. And it’s vital your attorney has all the facts, as it will allow them to properly protect your legal rights to your assets and any children.
Your retainer fee will also be established during this initial consultation, giving you a clear understanding of what your legal fees will be.