Divorce Law

Georgia Supreme Court Awards Wife Sole Possession of Marital Home

(US family law) With the number of divorce cases in the news and with high divorce rates across the nation, it seems like everyone knows something about divorce law these days. While many of us, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, have some exposure to family law, a recent divorce decision handed down by the Georgia Supreme Court shows that divorce and family law issues are far from simple.

In Graham v. Graham, the Court faced the question of whether a divorcing couple’s marital home is subject to equitable division or whether the home was separate property belonging only to the wife. Although title of the house was solely in the wife’s name, a portion of the funds used to buy the home came from sale of the husband’s own property. However, the trial court decided that the wife was entitled to sole possession of the house, as the husband had “gifted” it to her to protect the property from creditors. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court, and awarded the wife sole possession of the marital home. While the Supreme Court’s decision was based in large part on procedural grounds, the decision nonetheless demonstrates the complexity involved when dividing marital assets in a divorce case.

Division of Marital Property in Georgia

How property is divided in a divorce case varies by state. Georgia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that any property or assets acquired during the marriage, called marital property, is subject to division. Marital property can include personal property such as bank accounts, insurance policies, and retirement accounts as well as real property, such as the family home. Separate property is anything that was acquired before the marriage or during the marriage if it was acquired by gift, inheritance, or similar means. While marital property is divided when a couple divorces, separate property is usually not subject to division.

Although the distinction between marital property and separate property may seem clear, there are many exceptions and situations where the rules are more complex. For example, even where the couple shares a marital home, if the house appreciated in value during the marriage, one party may be entitled to an equitable portion of the appreciation. As the Georgia Supreme Court demonstrated, even the couple’s marital home may be treated as separate property in some circumstances.

Navigating the Divorce Process

The division of marital property can be a complicated and time-consuming process. A divorce is usually a trying time for many couples, and dividing assets and property can often lead to heated disputes. If you are facing a divorce, it’s essential to consult experienced divorce lawyers to ensure your interests and your assets are fully protected.