The first question that many divorcing people have is whether they or their spouse are entitled to half of the marital property. The short answer is that Georgia law does not require marital property to be divided equally. Georgia courts apply the principles of equitable division, which means that the apportionment of marital property between spouses is to be a fair division, not necessarily 50-50. Marital property is divided on a case-by-case basis, and relevant factors are taken into consideration such as:
1) each spouse's contribution to the acquisition and maintenance of the property;
2) the purpose and intent of the spouses regarding ownership of the property;
3) the age, health, occupation, vocational skills and employability of each spouse;
4) the duration of the marriage;
5) the contribution or services of each spouse to the family unit;
6) the amount and sources of income, and the estate, debts, liabilities and needs of the spouses;
7) debts against the property;
8) the opportunity of each spouse for future acquisition of assets by employment or otherwise; and
9) the conduct of the spouses, both during the marriage and with reference to the cause of the divorce.
A person going through a divorce in Georgia must never assume that he or she will receive half of the marital assets. Courts have great discretion when deciding how to divide marital property. A party to a divorce case must support his or her claims to an equitable division of the marital property with evidence and well-reasoned arguments about why his or her proposed division is fair given the facts and circumstances of his or her marriage.
Below are two real life examples of when I was able to successfully argue for an unequal, yet equitable division.
Example A: The spouses had been married for approximately 30 years. The wife was 20 years younger than her husband. The husband was in poor health, and because of his age had a life expectancy that was much shorter than the life expectancy of the wife. The wife was able to show that her future financial needs were greater than those of her husband because of her greater life expectancy. The wife was awarded the majority of the marital property because of her greater future financial needs.
Example B: The spouses had been married for 25 years. The wife had crippling arthritis. In addition, the husband had participated in multiple affairs. The wife was able to show that she was not capable of working and accumulating property after the divorce because of her physical limitations. She was also able to show that the husband's affairs caused the divorce. As a result, the wife was awarded the majority of the marital assets.
There are many other examples of good arguments for marital property to be equitably divided in a way that is not equal. There are, however, just as many examples and good arguments for dividing marital property equally. Every marriage is different. If you are faced with divorce in Georgia, you will need advice from a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who can advise you based upon your individual circumstances. You will also need a skilled and persuasive advocate who can represent you both inside and outside of the courtroom.
Call me at 770-937-0012, or contact me through my website (www.berrymanfamilylaw.com) to find out how to obtain the legal representation that you need if you are getting divorced in Georgia.
Scott Berryman~Berryman Family Law
Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.
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