How the courts will handle your property in a divorce can vary drastically depending on your unique family circumstances. Typically, the greater the overall value of your marital assets, the more you and your ex have to fight over in divorce court.
Georgia is among the majority of states that favor an equitable distribution standard. Simply put, George’s family law instructs the courts to find a fair and equitable way to split up the assets and debts a family accumulates during a marriage.
While some people interpret that to mean a 50/50 split of assets, in reality, equitable means fair, not necessarily even. A number of different factors influence what the courts consider fair, including how much of your estate is separate property and how much is marital property shared by the spouses. Your separate property, in most cases, is not vulnerable to division by the courts.
What is typically separate property in a divorce?
Knowing what you actually possess independently and what you share with your spouse can make it easier for you to negotiate during pre-divorce discussions or mediation. It can also make it easier for you to understand the most likely way the courts will rule in your case.
Separate property under Georgia law includes any assets that you or your spouse owned prior to marriage. Items you inherit, as well as gifts purchased by someone other than a spouse, are often separate property. Certain assets can be a bit of a gray area when the asset in question is particularly valuable, such as the marital home.
Issues such as both spouses contributing financially to an asset or investing substantially in its maintenance or improvement can change separate property into marital property in some cases. Knowing the value of the asset prior to and at the end of the marriage can make it easier to establish that asset as separate property or marital property due to the increase in value that resulted from the financial efforts or other work contributed by the spouse who did not own the asset prior to marriage.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can earmark certain assets as protected
One of the biggest incentives people cite for the creation of a prenuptial agreement is the protection of a particular asset, such as the family home. If you have substantial assets prior to marriage or if there is a significant discrepancy in income between you and your spouse, executing a prenuptial agreement before marriage could help protect your finances and your assets from claims made during a divorce.
If you married without a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement could also offer some protection for your most valuable assets. If you do not have either of these contracts on record, those with substantial separate property or assets that have personal or familial value may find that mediation and an uncontested divorce filing will be the best way to protect those valuable assets in a high-asset Georgia divorce.