In Georgia, nearly all property that either spouse acquires during marriage automatically becomes shared marital property. When a couple separates, marital property is subject to equitable distribution by the court, including vehicles, the family home, bank accounts and investments, regardless of whose name is on a title or account.
Unfortunately, when a divorce is contentious, one spouse may try to hide, spend down or even destroy shared assets to avoid a fair division.
In cases where one spouse is a much higher earner and/or handles most of the finances, concealing or diverting assets may be relatively easy. Common ways that individuals attempt to shield property or income from court scrutiny include:
- Transferring assets to a third party
- Opening an account in a child’s name
- Retaining assets in a business
- Delaying a pay increase or bonus
- Claiming an asset does not exist
A spouse may also purposefully drain marital assets prior to divorce finalization. In addition to increased spending on personal luxuries, examples of this kind of “marital waste” include taking on new debts, making questionable investments and destroying or underselling valuable items like jewelry, heirlooms or artwork.
Once the divorce process is underway, Georgia law prohibits both spouses from making financial transactions that are not part of their ordinary household, family or business-related expenses.
Additionally, during the divorce, each spouse must fully disclose all income and assets, both separate and marital. If a spouse has concealed, dissipated or diverted property, he or she may face charges of perjury and/or contempt of court, and a judge may award a greater portion of assets to the wronged party.