While Texas is a community property state, family law courts are required to grant a “just and right” division of marital property upon divorce. Anything that is considered marital property will be rewarded to one spouse or the other, based on how the judge determines to make the division. Separate property will not be susceptible to community property division, and one of the few examples of separate property is a gift given to one spouse, regardless of when it was received. If it is unclear to whom a gift was given, such as a wedding gift, deciding who has rights to keep it can become complex.
Gifts Given to Two People
Wedding gifts represent a unique middle ground between marital and separate property. By its name, a wedding gift is a gift, but it is intended for both spouses. Anything that is acquired by both spouses is considered marital property and can be divided using “just and right” measures. Essentially, if the gift was stacked up in the pile of presents that can be found at most weddings, it is marital property.
The argument could be made that some wedding gifts are not marital property, based on what they are and who uses them. Texas considers an item to be separate property if it is acquired during a marriage but was given directly to one spouse; some evidence that can be used to establish this character is a gift which had one spouse’s name on it. Additionally, an item that is intended for use by just one spouse could be seen as separate property and belonging to just that one individual.
For example: Tommy and Emily are getting married. Tommy loves to work on automobiles in his spare time and Emily has never expressed any interest in the hobby. One of the wedding gifts is a toolset with equipment specific to automobile maintenance; the present is wrapped and does not specifically say it is “for Tommy” anywhere on it. If Tommy and Emily divorce later, Tommy can claim the toolset is separate property, assuming Emily had never picked up the hobby as well. Ultimately, the decision will be up to a judge’s call if the two divorcing spouses cannot agree, but Tommy may have the advantage in this situation.
Keep the Gifts You Believe Are Yours
Dividing up wedding gifts can be one of the most complicated aspects of a divorce, especially if the marriage did not last long. There are likely to be several items that both spouses appreciated, used, and believe they should be allowed to keep after the divorce. Coming to an agreement can seem like a distant possibility if neither spouse is willing to compromise.
For professional guidance through property division, you can rely on our Houston divorce lawyers from Hendershot, Cannon, Martin & Hisey, P.C. We can help you decide which items are worth fighting for and which might be better left uncontested to avoid an extended legal battle that drags out your divorce. At the end of the day, we want to do all we can to uphold your best interests and reach an amicable solution.
Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation where you can learn more about your rights during a divorce.