In Georgia, courts divide property and assets on an equitable basis. In other words, they attempt to distribute your property fairly. That includes all property classified as marital property. Separate property—like gifts or inheritances—does not go through the division process.
In considering what is fair, courts factor in matters like home and property contributions or even contributions to child-raising. A spouse who stays home with the kids and contributes domestically is unable to obtain retirement funds of their own accord. Furthermore, you earn retirement benefits through working just as you earn a paycheck through working. Therefore, just as courts may split a marital bank account upon divorce so may they split a retirement account.
Domestic relations orders and why they matter
That said, things can be quite complicated when it comes to splitting retirement accounts at the property division stage. There must first be a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) in play.
A domestic relations order is a decree that orders the split of an asset or property for the provision of another domestic party – in this case, your spouse. Though, there are some cases where it may be ordered on behalf of a child for support or other payments.
The implementation of a QDRO is the recognition of your spouse’s right to receive a portion of your retirement benefits. Note that a state agency or entity with the authority to handle these matters may issue a domestic relations order. It does not have to be the state court.