In Florida, the assets of a divorcing couple are generally subject to equitable distribution. This applies to almost all types of marital property, even gifts between spouses. Unlike gifts given to one spouse by a third party, which usually remain in the sole ownership of the person who received them, spousal gifts are not considered separate property. If you were given a substantial gift during your marriage and want to ensure that you retain it after your divorce is finalized, you should consider consulting with a property division attorney who has the experience and resources necessary to ensure that your interests are protected.
Will Gifts Given to Me by My Spouse be Divided During Divorce?
Exchanging gifts is a traditional way to show someone that you care about them. This is true even after marriage, when gifts on anniversaries and holidays may come to be expected. When a marriage is healthy and successful, sharing these gifts is not usually an issue. However, when a marriage is being dissolved, items that were given as gifts take on new significance, especially if they are extremely valuable. In these cases, the party who gave the gift may see the item as a marital asset, which under Florida law, means that it must be divided equitably between the parties. Although the other spouse may reasonably assume that the gift, which was freely given, will remain their sole property, the reality is that gifts given from one spouse to another are considered interspousal gifts and so fall under the category of marital property, meaning that they must be equitably divided during divorce.
What Qualifies as a Spousal Gift?
Some types of gifts clearly satisfy the definition of a spousal gift. A pearl necklace or a watch given for an anniversary, for example, are obviously spousal gifts if given by one partner to another. However, it is not always easy to determine whether particular properties are spousal gifts for the purposes of property distribution. The answer to this question will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. For example, the Florida Supreme Court recently stated that two properties that were owned by a husband, but were used only as family residences counted as gifts to the wife and so must be equitably divided and when making these determinations, courts should assess the following factors:
- Whether one spouse intentionally transferred the item to the other spouse;
- Whether one spouse immediately transferred the property;
- Whether the spouse gifting the property relinquished all control over it to the other spouse; and
- Whether the property was accepted by the other spouse.
Only when some or all of these elements are missing can a spouse make the argument that a property transfer did not qualify as a gift and so should remain separate property that must remain in his or her sole ownership.
Call Today to get the Legal Representation You Deserve
The divorce process can be both emotional and complex and no one should have to go through it alone. As such, if you are dissolving your marriage and have questions about whether you will be able to retain ownership of certain property, please call dedicated and compassionate property division attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 today.