If you are beginning the process of a divorce in Florida, you may have questions about gifts or inheritance that you are hoping to protect from the process of asset division. First, you must understand that Florida is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that the division of assets starts at 50/50, and then factors in many details that arrive at a fair distribution. However, these rules are very specifics, and can protect assets that were brought into the marriage, or are defined as non-marital assets. We highly recommend that you begin speaking with a family law firm in Miami at the first hint of your divorce, so that you are able to get all of your assets in order and ensure that there is clarity in how they will be treated.
One big point of contention in a divorce is gifts given from one spouse to the other over the course of a marriage. There are a few different ways that a gift can be handled. Read more about them below.
What Is a Gift?
A gift is something that is given from one person to another with no expectation of an exchange of goods or services, and it must be clear that the gift-giver is relinquishing their ownership of the item once they give it to the recipient. Gifts are treated differently if it is to either spouse from a third party, versus when it is a gift from one spouse to the other.
Is My Gift Considered Marital Property?
Let’s say your grandfather gave you a car as a gift. There was no expectation of ever paying him back for it, and it was clearly given to you. During a divorce, one major question that will be asked is about who is on the title. If your spouse was not put on the title of the car, then just like an inheritance received during the marriage, it is considered separate.
However, if you were gifted a sum of money, which you then placed into a joint account and used it for joint expenses, you will have a hard time making the argument that it is not marital property. The fact that you comingled the money with your spouse, and put him or her in partial ownership of it when you placed it in your joint account, means that you were sharing it.
Are Recipients Obligated To Return a Gift?
There are unfortunate times when one spouse will receive a gift in the marriage, such as a family heirloom or something of sentimental value. When the marriage ends, there may likely be some hard feelings, and the gift-giver may want the item brought back into the family. There are some legal options where the giver may bring a lawsuit that states the gift may have been conditional (conditional on the success of the marriage) or that it was only being lent for a period of time. This can be a tricky process, however, because proving that there was an actual condition placed on the gift, or that it was clearly loaned and not given, can be exceptionally hard from a legal standpoint without a written contract.
If you feel that gifts are going to be an issue in your upcoming divorce, be sure to speak with your lawyer about this as soon as possible. They will want to know everything to expect during the process, and this could add some complications to the overall progress.