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4 myths you may believe about asset division in a Georgia divorce

Watching legal shows on TV, reading about celebrities getting divorced, and surfing the internet for information aren't necessarily good ways to learn about the law. The best source of information about divorce and family law is a lawyer.

Unfortunately, the information age has led to an explosion of information -- both accurate and inaccurate. How many of these myths do you believe?

Myth No. 1: I've agreed my spouse can have the house, so I have no further responsibility for the mortgage. The truth is, if you bought the house while you were married -- or if you were married for a significant period of time -- the house is considered a marital asset. That means it must be divided equitably. Making an informal agreement isn't enough; the decision that one spouse will keep the house needs to be made as part of a negotiated divorce agreement or decree. Even then, you may still need to convince your lender to remove your name, or you could be left holding the bag if your ex-spouse defaults on the loan.

Myth No. 2: My spouse has moved out of the house, so they've given up their rights. While it's true that one spouse's having moved out of the house is sometimes considered evidence in divorce trials, neither spouse can lose their interest in the home simply by moving out. The house still needs to be divided during divorce, either by selling it and splitting the proceeds, or by offsetting its value with other assets.

Myth No. 3: My name is the only one on the mortgage and title to the house, so it's not marital property. As we mentioned above, your house will probably be considered a marital asset if you made the purchase during your marriage or, if you didn't, if you were married for a substantial time. The name on the mortgage and title is not dispositive.

Myth No. 4: We're in a common law marriage, so we don't have to split our assets. Whether you will need to go through a formal division of your assets depends on whether your common law marriage is legal. Georgia ended the practice of allowing common law marriages on Jan.1, 1997. If you were together as a couple and hold yourself out as married since before that date, your common law marriage could be considered valid in a court of law. To end it, you will need to file for divorce and divide your property and debt just like a couple with a civil marriage under license.

There are other jurisdictions that allow common law marriage, and if you married in one of them, your marriage is typically considered valid. 

Whether you're considering divorce or need to know whether your common law marriage is valid, your best resource is an experienced family law attorney.

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