Dividing Gifts During a Divorce


Pasadena divorce laws state that items are either community property or separate property. Community property is defined as a marital asset that must be divided during the divorce. Separate property is property that does not fall under the definition of community property and thus belongs to just one spouse.

Gifts are one area that divorcing spouses often find confusing. A gift can be either community property or separate property, depending upon the circumstances.

A woman’s engagement ring belongs to her alone because it was a gift given before the marriage. However, gifts given from one spouse to another during the marriage are still considered marital property. So if a man paid to have his wife’s engagement ring upgraded as an anniversary present, this would make it marital property subject to division during a divorce. If a woman gave her husband a car for his birthday, it would be considered marital property because joint funds would have been used to purchase it.

Gifts given by people other than your spouse belong to the person they were given to, as long as they were not intended as a joint gift. An item given to you as a birthday gift would be assumed to be your personal property, but an item given as a wedding or anniversary present would be assumed to belong to both of you equally. This often comes into play when family heirlooms are concerned. If there is a question about the ownership of a gift, you might be asked to provide a written letter from the giver testifying as to whom the gift was given.

Inherited items such as antiques or jewelry are always the property of the person to whom they were legally given, regardless of whether the inheritance occurred before or after the wedding. Cash inheritances could be considered marital property if they were placed in a joint bank account used for everyday household expenses, however.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at info@PasadenaLawOffice.com if you are in need of legal representation during your divorce. Our skilled Pasadena divorce lawyers can help answer any questions that you might have about how California's community property laws will affect your settlement.