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Which gifts are separate property and which are marital property?

Getting divorced in California can be a stress-inducing experience. If you have children, you have to find a way to share custody. The more assets you have, the more compromises you will have to make to split them up with your spouse. You may wind up bitterly arguing about what seems fair or reasonable.

In many divorces, the asset division process quickly becomes one of the most contentious issues. Spouses may not agree about how to fairly split up their possessions. They may also have differing opinions on which assets should get divided in the first place.

Confusion about different standards can leave people with unrealistic expectations about asset division in a California divorce. Understanding how the courts handle gifts in a divorce will help you in securing a more fair divorce outcome.

Most gifts are separate property in a divorce

When the California courts decide how to split your possessions, they typically only divide your marital property shared with your spouse. The assets that you owned separately usually remain your separate property. Items that you own outright before marriage are typically separate property.

Anything you inherit as an individual is also separate property. Finally, gifts are typically separate property as well. However, the gift category often confuses people and can prove to be a pitfall in divorce proceedings. You might assume, for example, that any gift you have ever received will be exempt from division in divorce.

Typically, it is only gifts from third parties that qualify as separate property for the purpose of asset division. That means that gifts purchased by your spouse with marital assets are still subject to division in divorce proceedings. The same is true of gifts given to you by your children that were purchased with money earned during the marriage.

Your most valuable gifts may actually be marital assets

Did your spouse spend thousands of dollars on a tennis bracelet for your 20th anniversary? Did you get a new car to celebrate your child graduating high school? Those gifts typically won't be separate property if your spouse used marital assets to purchase them. Instead, they, like all of your other marital assets, will be subject to division as the divorce progresses.

It can be frustrating to realize that you don't solely own the assets you received as gifts in your marriage, especially when those items hold significant value. However, it is possible for you to negotiate to retain them, in many cases, as your spouse probably doesn't have much of an interest in them, only in the value that they represent.

Discussing your various assets and your financial goals with an experienced California attorney can make it easier for you to secure the outcome you desire in your divorce.

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