If you and your spouse are getting divorced, one matter that will need to be addressed is property division. This is often one of the most contentious issues because so many major assets may be involved. Your goal is to protect what you’ve earned and make sure the courts treat you fairly during the divorce process. Turn to E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm, LLC, for aggressive advocacy of your interests.
What Are Georgia’s Property Division Rules?
Georgia follows a system of property division known as equitable distribution. “Equitable” means fair, not necessarily equal. In determining how to divide property, the ultimate aim of the court is to consider both spouses’ needs along with the facts of the case. Only marital property is subject to equitable distribution; property that is determined to be the separate property of either spouse is excluded.
Marital vs. Separate Property
Marital property is that which was acquired by either spouse during the marriage, with very few exceptions. Title to the property does not matter; even if your name alone is on a car, for example, the court can decide it is marital property.
Considering this broad definition of “marital property,” many different assets could be subject to equitable distribution. These would include pensions, retirement accounts, and other retirement benefits. Even though these assets are titled in one person’s name, and even though they were directly earned through one spouse’s work, they belong to the marriage because they were acquired during the marriage.
There are exceptions to this rule, including property that only one spouse received by inheritance or gift. These are examples of separate property, even though they were acquired during the marriage.
Separate property also includes that which was brought into the marriage and was not transferred to the other spouse. For instance, if you owned a house before marriage, it would remain yours even after you get married as long as it is not conveyed to the other spouse.
What About Appreciation in Property Value?
Although property brought into a marriage is generally considered separate, there are some limitations to this rule with respect to appreciation. The first question is whether the appreciation was active or passive.
Active appreciation means that either or both spouses took an active role in increasing the value of the asset. Take as an example a business owned by the husband. After marriage, the husband invested time and energy into the business and thereby increased its value. This is called active appreciation.
Passive appreciation, on the other hand, is an increase in an asset’s value due to outside market forces. As an example, you own a piece of land but make no effort to increase its value. Over the course of a decade, the surrounding land is developed, and the value of your land increases as a result. This is passive appreciation.
Active appreciation is considered to be marital property, subject to equitable distribution, while passive appreciation is not.