Who Retains Interspousal Gifts After Divorce?
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that divorcing couples must divide all of their marital property in an equitable, or fair manner before their divorce can be finalized. In some cases, determining what qualifies as marital property is a simple process. However, this is not always true, so if you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, it is important to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale property division lawyer who can assess your questions and help you reach a fair property settlement agreement with your spouse.
Dividing Marital Property
Categorizing certain assets as marital in nature is often relatively simple. For instance, real estate purchased by a couple after marriage for the family home will almost always qualify as a marital asset and so must be divided fairly upon divorce. Other types of property, however, are not so easily characterized. For instance, gifts given to one person during the marriage could be considered separate property and so will remain in that individual’s sole possession. Other gifts, on the other hand, including interspousal gifts, or gifts given by one spouse to another, could still qualify as marital assets for property division purposes. Unfortunately, the application of this rule can result in conflict and disputes about the true nature of the asset.
What Qualifies as an Interspousal Gift?
Fortunately, the state Supreme Court helped clarify what constitutes an interspousal gift for property division purposes in an opinion that it issued in 2017. In this case, the court explained that there are three elements necessary to prove that an asset is an interspousal gift, including:
- An intent by one spouse to give the asset to the other;
- Delivery of the asset to the other spouse; and
- The giving up of dominion and control over the asset to the other party.
When evaluating these factors, courts can also assess whose name is on the title documents for the asset and whether marital or nonmarital funds were used to purchase it. However, courts also look to the parties’ behavior at the time of the exchange for evidence of donative intent and relinquishment of possession. In the case at hand, the court ruled that a horse farm constituted an interspousal gift even though it was purchased with non-marital assets because the purchaser’s wife treated the property as if she were a joint owner by making decisions about the maintenance and development of the property.
Negotiating a Marital Settlement
It is possible for divorcing couples to negotiate or mediate a marital settlement agreement in which they decide who should retain certain property. If, for instance, there is a dispute about whether a specific asset qualifies as a gift, a couple could decide the fate of that asset without needing to litigate the issue in court. Alternatively, the fate of these types of assets could be determined by the terms of an already existing pre or postnuptial agreement entered into between the parties.
Schedule a Free Case Review Today
For help determining which of your own assets qualify as interspousal gifts, please call dedicated property division attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 today. Initial consultations are offered free of charge, so please don’t hesitate to call or contact us online today for help with your case.