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Equitable Division Why Accurate Value of Marital Assets is Important

In Georgia, marital assets are divided equitably upon a divorce. This means that the assets will be divided fairly according to the specific circumstances of the case. Often, particularly in the cases with “irreconcilable differences” as the ground for divorce, the assets do end up being divided equally, or very close there to. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that each asset is divided down the middle with each party receiving half. While that practice would work well with bank accounts, giving each person half of a house can be a little more complicated. For that reason, it is good practice to put all marital assets on a spreadsheet (sometimes called a “marital balance sheet”) and then separate them into columns for husband and wife. If, for example, the wife is going to keep the house and all the accrued equity in her column, the husband may get a larger portion of a bank account in his column to make up for the disparity.
Many marital assets, such as bank accounts and retirement accounts, are easily valued. Others, such as valuable personal property and real estate, may require further research, and possibly even expert testimony, to determine valuation. Valuation is important because, if an item is overvalued, the person receiving it in the divorce will get less of the other marital assets to make up for it. Conversely, if an item is undervalued, the person receiving it may get more of other martial assets to make up for the difference in the other direction.


Consider the divorce of New York art collector, Linda Macklowe. Macklowe has a substantial and valuable 170-piece art collection that she has asked for as part of equitable division. Linda Macklowe lowballs art collection to get more money in divorce, by Julia Marsh, pagesix.com, September 27, 2017. Linda’s art expert has valued the collection at $625 million. Her husband, however, claims the collection is worth closer to $1 billion. Her husband wants the Judge to assign the higher value to the collection because “a lower official value on in will translate to a bigger slice of [his] estimated $2 billion fortune.” It is clear that neither party is going to come out of this divorce destitute. However, a $3 million valuation difference will be a huge swing in one direction or the other in the division of assets. The husband’s lawyer has been trying to disprove Linda’s valuation through cross examination of her expert. However, if Linda’s husband truly believes the collection is worth more, it would benefit him to obtain his own art expert to support his valuation claim. The Judge can then decide which way to go.

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