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How are Gifts Given To You By Your Spouse Treated in Divorce?

Gifts in Divorce

How are Gifts Given To You By Your Spouse Treated in Divorce?

While not the first question that is usually asked, after a while, our clients start to wonder what will happen to certain property when we start to divide the marital estate. One question that a client may ask is “What happens to that luxury vehicle that I purchased as a gift for him on Valentine’s Day?”

Marital Gifts in Divorce

In general, a gift made by one spouse to the other is treated in the same way as a gift between any other people. The general rule is that the gift between the couple must have been made intentionally by the donor spouse; have been an immediate transfer of the gifted property; the donor spouse must have relinquished all dominion and control over the property; and the receiving spouse must have accepted the gift. While it is easy to state that the general rule of gifts apply to married couples, a few questions naturally arise when giving the subject further thought.

Well, what if the husband and wife combine incomes? Is it possible to gift something to someone where the receiving person may (arguably) have already owned it?  Under Florida law, there is no requirement that a gift between a husband and wife must be a gift of separate (or derived from separate) property (Boyle v. Schmitt, 552 So. 2d 1158 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989). That is, the gifting (donor) spouse can rightfully gift the property of a car to the other spouse even though the funds for the purchase technically came from a joint bank account.

The most common legal issue that arises with respect to gifts made between spouses is whether or not the legal requirements for a valid gifting have actually been met. Namely, did the donor spouse actually relinquish all dominion and control of the vehicle when the gifting spouse registered the Florida title jointly, in the name of both spouses?  It is not uncommon for the validity of a gift to be challenged in a dissolution proceeding.
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If you have any questions about the legal ownership status of property given (or acquired) during the course of your marriage, feel free to give us a call at +1.786.309.8588.