Community Property Laws in Georgia
Protecting your financial interests and wellbeing requires you to understand how Georgia courts view property and assets you share with your spouse.
Separate and marital (or community) property are treated differently in Georgia family courts. Knowing which of your assets are considered to be separate and marital property is the first step to protecting your legal rights.
Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can give you the legal strategies you need in a divorce or other family law proceedings.
What is Community Property in Georgia?
Some states have community property laws that cause shared assets to be split equally with half going to one spouse and half going to the other. But Georgia doesn’t recognize community property laws and is, instead, an equitable distribution state.
This means that equity is more important than an equal split of assets. Georgia family court judges can make decisions based on the unique circumstances related to a case.
Courts have to distinguish assets that were acquired during the marriage (marital) from those acquired before the marriage (separate). In general, separate property is not subject to equitable distribution.
The family courts have rules they must follow when deciding what assets and personal property are separate and which ones are shared.
Dividing Property in a Divorce
The division of property in Georgia courts is based on factors related to your case rather than legal statutes. The courts primarily focus on shared assets that can include real estate, personal possessions, insurance policies, and shared income.
Assets acquired before marriage are considered separate and not subject to equitable distribution unless they’ve been commingled in some way with marital assets.
Some of the factors used by courts to determine how community assets will be divided include the following:
- Income and future earning capacity
- Future needs
- Misconduct that resulted in the loss of shared assets
- Outstanding debts
- The behavior of both parties during the divorce
Georgia courts emphasize fairness when dividing shared assets. They have full discretion in the decisions they make related to your marital property. Knowing the laws that influence equitable distribution can help you protect your financial interests.
Your family law attorney can help you understand what courts look at when determining how your marital assets will be divided.
Other Considerations When Dividing Marital Property
Retirement benefits and debts must also be considered when dividing marital property. Retirement accounts can include pension and 401(k) plans. Courts can divide accounts into separate ones when necessary.
Debts can also be divided in the same way as assets. But you’ll need to determine how much of your debt is shared and what portion is considered separate.
Factors like the date the debt was acquired, its type, and who benefited from taking on the debt can all be taken into consideration.
Credit card debt can be viewed as shared debt even in cases where only one spouse applied for the account during the marriage.
The process for valuating assets and debts can be complex. Having an attorney who understands the process can help you get a more accurate view of how much debt will be divided between both parties.
Couples can agree to the terms for dividing marital property in advance, which can help you avoid lengthy and costly legal proceedings. In cases where there is no agreement on the division of assets, a court judge must step in and decide how to separate assets fairly.
The more you know about your separate and shared assets, the better you can protect your financial future.