Georgia law recognizes that a spouse’s non-economic contribution to marriage might be reflected in an equitable property division, regardless of the actual legal ownership. See Stokes v. Stokes, 246 Ga. 765 (1980); See also Rooks v. Rooks, 252 Ga. 11 (1984). In particular, separate property may be deemed (in whole or part) marital property if the property’s value appreciated during the marriage due to the other spouse’s efforts. Halpern v. Halpern, 256 Ga. 639 (1987).
The key test seems to be one of active v passive appreciation. If the value of certain assets has appreciated, at least in part, by the contributions of either spouse, there may be a claim of active appreciation. One of the biggest questions in this regard is the active appreciation for a business owner. If that company grows and succeeds because of the owner’s ideas, leadership, and business acumen, that increase in value is due to active appreciation.
On the other hand, passive appreciation is the increase in the value of certain assets due to outside market forces such as supply and demand and inflation. For example, let’s say Person A bought a parcel of land 20 years ago. Upon purchase, the property was worth $10,000. Over the last 20 years, Person A made no improvements to the land, but the area around that parcel was successfully developed over the past 20 years. Due to no efforts on the part of Person A, the property is now worth $100,000. This is passive appreciation.