Posted on Oct 04, 2019 in Family Law by Elaine Sym
David Beckham gave his wife a winery in California for her birthday. Tom Cruise bought his wife a gulf-stream jet.
Whilst we are not all lucky enough to be married to the rich and famous, issues can still arise about the ownership of gifts when a married couple separate. When it comes to the division of marital assets, what is the status of gifts?
The law is quite clear that gifts between spouses do count as matrimonial property and therefore get added to the “pot” to be split between the couple. That might come as a surprise for some – especially, for example, if you have received an expensive piece of jewellery as a birthday present, and you then realise that it’s value needs to be added in with the pensions, bank accounts and other assets.
The opposite is the case when it comes to gifts by third parties. These are exempt from the definition of matrimonial property, and therefore anything you receive as a gift from, for example, a friend or family member, is not added to the “pot”. Your spouse would have no claim on that gift.
One area that can cause difficulties is in determining who the gift was given to. Was it just to you, or was it a joint gift to you both? Was there anything put down in writing when the gift was made? Was it for a specific purpose for example someone’s birthday? If there is any doubt as to whom the gift was made, a court would look at all of the circumstances surrounding the making of the gift. That is why it is so important to make sure these matters are clear (and, if possible, in writing) at the time the gift is made.
Another particular issue that can arise is where one spouse receives a gift, but then goes on to use it during the marriage for family purposes. The most common scenario is where one spouse received money from his or her parents, and then uses that money to put into the family home. The gift is the money, so whilst that is clearly non-matrimonial, the conversion into the house, means that it has now become a matrimonial asset and the starting point is that the other spouse would be entitled to a share of it on divorce. It is then up to the person who received the gift to show that it would be unfair to split it equally, as the source of funds used were non-matrimonial.
Dividing your assets on divorce can be a complicated matter, and we are available to offer you expert, legal and practical advice on how to proceed through these difficult times.
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