Divorce involves dividing the family property and this can oftentimes be extremely complicated and contentious, especially if there are significant assets such as houses, rental property, retirement/pension plans, stock options, businesses, professional practices and licenses, etc.
One of the key aspects of the division process is understanding the difference between separate and marital property. Generally, separate property is limited in scope and includes things such as:
– Property that was owned by either spouse solely prior to the marriage
– An inheritance received by the husband or wife from a third party (either before or after the marriage)
– A gift received by the husband or wife from a third party
– Payment received for the pain and suffering portion in a personal injury judgment
Everything else will most likely be considered marital property and will be equitably divided, as stipulated by Georgia law. Compared to separate property, marital property is a broad category and includes property acquired during the marriage, regardless of which spouse owns the property or how the property is titled.
In other words you are most likely entitled to an asset such as a 401k, stock options, etc., even if it is in your spouse’s name. Even separate property can become marital property if it is co-mingled with marital assets. As an example, consider a scenario in which you re-titled your condo (bought when you were single) and added your spouse as a co-owner – this is now considered marital property.
Also keep in mind that debt is treated in the same way as assets and is subject to the same division guidelines into separate/marital property as assets. This means that if your spouse accrued debt on their personal credit card during your marriage, you could still be responsible for paying it back.