Georgia is an equitable distribution state, meaning in a divorce, marital assets and debts are divided based on what is fair, not necessarily equal. Divorce is a big change in your life – the longer you are married, the bigger the change is for both parties, even if both want to divorce. When divorcing, you often have four hurdles: Division of assets and debts, child custody, child support, and spousal support. Many people can agree on all four of these factors and divorce amicably through an uncontested divorce. They sign a settlement agreement, and the court enters a final judgment.
However, in many cases, the parties cannot agree on one or more of the four factors involved in a divorce. In either case, a Georgia divorce attorney can ensure your spouse does not violate your rights in a divorce. One way you can help yourself is to understand how Georgia laws dictate assets divided in a divorce
Equitable Distribution and How it Affects Assets Divided in a Divorce
States use one of two methods to divide assets in a divorce when the parties cannot agree: Equitable distribution or equal distribution. In most cases, community property states use equal distribution – where each spouse gets half of the assets.
Georgia is not a community property state and uses equitable distribution of assets. Courts start by dividing the marital assets and debts with 50 percent to each party. The court then looks at various factors when dividing assets, including:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The parties’ incomes and/or earning capacity.
- Whether one spouse is receiving spousal support.
- The value of the property.
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage.
- The economic position of each spouse after the division of assets.
- Grounds for divorce.
- Wasting assets.
- The amount of non-marital property each spouse owns.
If both spouses make an equal amount of money and all other factors are equal or do not exist, the court could assign 50 percent of the assets divided in a divorce to each spouse, which is often the case.
While the court looks at all of the above and more, the most important factors include the following:
Income and Earning Capacity
In some cases, one spouse might put his or her career on hold so the other can stay home and take care of the children or further his or her education. That spouse might earn less than the spouse that continued working.
In other cases, one spouse might have a high-paying job, such as in the medical or legal fields, while the other might be starting a career or might have a management or different position that does not pay as much and does not have the same earning potential as their spouse.
If one spouse brings in 60 percent of the income, he or she might receive fewer assets based on value to make up the difference.
In Georgia, there is no value calculator for the amount of spousal support a party receives. However, granting spousal support is based on the receiving spouse’s need for support and the paying spouse’s ability to pay. For tax reasons, the Internal Revenue and Georgia do not consider spousal support as income, and the courts consider spousal support when contemplating the assets divided in a divorce.
Contribution to the Marriage
Working outside the home is one of many factors that makes a marriage, and the contribution of each spouse is also a factor in equitable distribution. For example, if one spouse works, but the other cleans, cooks, does laundry, takes care of the kids, takes the kids to school and doctors’ appointments, and does other chores, that spouse contributes financial value to the marriage.
Another contribution to the marriage that courts look at is whether one spouse gives up a career so that the other can further his or her career. If one spouse works dead-end jobs and takes care of the children and the home so the other can go to school to advance a career, the court looks at that as a major contribution to the benefit of the spouse going to school.
Contact a Georgia Divorce Attorney
If you are ready to file for divorce or your spouse has already filed, the Platt Family Law Firm team of attorneys can help you through the contested divorce process. They explain more about assets divided in a divorce and how wasted assets, non-marital property, and other factors affect assets divided in a divorce.