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The basics of property division in a divorce

In a U.S. divorce, property and debts are divided according to either community property law or equitable distribution principles. Georgia, along with most states in the country, is an equitable distribution state, meaning that absent an agreement between the parties, assets and debts are divided in a manner that the court deems fair, but which may not be equal.

Thus, if one spouse in Georgia made significantly more money than the other spouse during marriage, a judge may determine that the most fair way of dividing the couple's marital assets is to give the higher-earning spouse a larger portion. Property division does not necessarily mean a literal division of property, as certain assets like a house cannot be physically divided. If a judge does believe that it would be most equitable to give each spouse an equal share of something like a family home, the judge may order the parties to sell the home and split the proceeds in half.

If a couple has children together, the most fair distribution of the marital home may be to allow the spouse who does the majority of the child-raising to stay in the house with the children. There may be a different outcome if the couple is childless and one spouse owned the home separately prior to the marriage.

Divorces can get contentious, and some people may be tempted to allege wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse as a means of gaining leverage. However, if it is believed that one party made false allegations about something like domestic violence in order to try to get the other out of the house, the judge may take that into consideration. Individuals going through a divorce may want to speak with an attorney to discuss possible negotiations for dividing marital assets in order to keep the decision out of the hands of the court.

Source: Findlaw, "Divorce Property Division FAQ", September 04, 2014

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