Determining Possession of Family Heirlooms After a Divorce


Divorce laws in Pasadena state that items are either separate property or marital property. Unfortunately, however, family heirlooms can sometimes be classified as marital property that belongs to both spouses equally. This can be quite upsetting to the spouse who is angry about losing an heirloom with both monetary and sentimental value.

Gifts to one person are considered separate property. A family heirloom you received as a gift for your birthday would be considered to belong to you alone.

Giving a gift to a couple for their wedding anniversary makes the items marital property that belongs to both of them equally. In the event of a divorce, testimony from family members regarding the circumstances of a gift might be needed to determine who owns a family heirloom.

Wedding rings are considered a gift to one spouse from the other. So a man who gives his wife his great grandmother's wedding ring is not legally entitled to have the ring returned in the event of a divorce.

An inheritance that is given to one person exclusively is considered separate property. This is easy to prove by reviewing the will of the person who provided the inheritance.

When you file for divorce, you will be asked to provide a list of items that you believe are separate property. Make this list very carefully. Family heirlooms that are placed in storage and not being used on a regular basis, such as grandmother's antique china or grandfather's collection of rare coins, are easy to accidentally leave off the list. If the items have great monetary value as well as sentimental value, ask for a temporary court order to ensure that they are removed from the marital home and kept in a secure location.

If the court determines that a family heirloom qualifies as marital property, you may need to trade your spouse by exchanging items of equal value to regain possession of the family heirloom.

How Can We Help?

If you are in need of assistance with an issue relating to the division of marital property, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our Pasadena divorce law firm has the skills and experience needed to advocate for your interests throughout the divorce process.