At Terri Herron Law, a family law firm based in Atlanta, we understand that divorce is a confusing — and often frightening — prospect. We’re here to provide the answers you need to make informed decisions.
Below, you will find answers to common questions people have about divorce. However, it’s important to consult with a lawyer about the specifics of your situation. At our firm, you’ll find knowledgeable guidance and a legal team dedicated to your success.
How Long Will It Take?
Divorce cases can take anywhere from several months to several years. It all depends on your circumstances. In general, the more highly contested the case is, the longer it will take. Yet even uncontested cases in Georgia require at least a 31-day waiting period before becoming final.
Will I Lose My Home?
A big issue in many divorce cases is deciding who will get to remain in the marital home. The answer depends on many factors, including your financial means, your spouse’s financial means and the children’s needs.
What If There’s A Prenup?
Prenuptial agreements often establish property rights in the event of divorce. If valid, a prenup can affect your rights regarding alimony, property division and the marital home. These agreements can sometimes be challenged in court.
How Are Assets And Debts Divided?
Georgia is an equitable distribution state. This means that all property acquired during marriage — such as bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, jewelry, other property and even debts — is considered marital property. Upon filing for divorce, an inventory is taken of all marital assets. Once everything has been accounted for, the couple — or the court if the couple is going through a contested divorce — will divide the property equitably in the divorce settlement.
Does Equitable Distribution Mean A 50/50 Split?
Not always. Georgia judges take a number of things into consideration when finalizing divorce settlements; among those is the length of the marriage. It’s important to know that the assets that are subject to equitable distribution are those acquired from the time you get married to the time you actually divorce. Everything else may qualify as separate property, though, in some cases, even this fact can be disputed and result in a contested divorce.
What Happens To Retirement And Investment Accounts?
Investment portfolios, stocks, stock options and retirement accounts are common assets held by high-income individuals that can complicate a high-asset divorce. That’s because while these assets are considered marital property, most of these assets are time dependant, meaning the division of these assets often depends on several variables, including when the account was started, when the majority of contributions or growth occurred, and when the accounts are eligible to be cashed out.
Vesting schedules can also complicate matters because, like in the case of restricted stock options, vestment and payout varies depending on the worker. Companies typically establish set benchmarks or requirements a worker has to reach before their stock units will become vested. If they fail to meet these requirements, their stock units may not have any value when it comes time to divide marital assets.
Will My 401(k) Be Penalized When It’s Divided In Divorce?
No. When it comes time to divide your 401(k), it will be placed in a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) that is then handled by the bank. Since no money from your 401(k) is in your possession, you will not be penalized for what you may see as early withdrawal.
I’m Worried About Hidden Assets; What Should I Do?
If you’re the lower-earning spouse in a high net worth marriage, you may have concerns that your spouse is hiding assets. As hidden assets can greatly impact your portion of a divorce settlement, it’s important to be able to identify key warning signs and speak to a skilled family law attorney as soon as possible.
Most family law attorneys work with forensic accountants in cases such as this to uncover hidden assets and make sure they are properly reported during property division proceedings. Our firm is no exception, and we have particular experience helping clients who own businesses uncover the assets they are entitled to in divorce.
How Will My Divorce Affect My Tax Filing?
If you’re a high net worth individual going through divorce, it’s important to know that your tax obligations could change after your divorce is finalized. There are a lot of things to consider, and no two divorces ever result in the same tax outcomes.
Some common effects on taxes include:
- Tax filing status
- Who claims child dependants as an exemption
- Alimony and child support payments
- The capital gains tax on appreciated property
- Deductions, such as attorney and accountant fees
- Tax penalties for dividing retirement accounts
- Issues that may arise if an ex-spouse files jointly and you do not
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Alimony Requests?
Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, was once a very beneficial part of divorce settlements, as they provided additional financial resources to lower-earning spouses following a divorce. Due to a major change in the tax code, however, spouses may not see the same benefits — or even drawbacks — they once did.
Any couple whose divorce finalizes after December 31, 2018, should know that because of the tax code change, spouses making alimony payments will no longer be able to file them as a deduction, and spouses receiving payments will no longer be required to claim it as income.
While alimony requests may have lost some of their power as bargaining chips in divorce settlements, they still may be necessary — if not crucial — for some divorcing spouses. A family lawyer like Terri Herron can help you ensure that this doesn’t become a sticking point in your divorce.
Do I Need An Attorney?
Divorce is a complicated, multi-step process. Even if you think your case is uncontested, disputes can still arise down the road. It’s far better to protect your rights now than face regrets later.
At Terri Herron Law, we make it easy to meet with a lawyer. There’s no obligation, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of your rights and options. To get started, call 404-692-6487 to schedule a free consultation or send us an email. We have appointments available at our main office in Roswell as well as four other locations in Georgia: Atlanta, Marietta, Snellville and Duluth.