When a court decides how to divide property during divorce proceedings, it will first attempt to distinguish between marital and non-marital property. In general, a gift that one spouse receives either before or during the marriage is not marital property.
Couples may disagree about whether one spouse intended for something to be a gift and litigate the issue during a divorce hearing. There are a few different factors that courts consider in determining what property was a gift.
Property that you gave your spouse
A spouse may claim that something you bought was a gift when in fact you bought it for both of you to use. For example, a boat you bought for the the two of you to use together may not necessarily be a gift. In contrast, a piece of jewelry that you gave to your wife was for her sole use, so a court will consider it to be a gift. Even if a piece of jewelry is a family heirloom that you would like to have back, a court will likely determine that you surrendered your rights to the item when you made it a gift.
Property that someone else gave your spouse
If someone gave something to your spouse with the understanding that you would both use it, the item could be marital property. For example, if your wife’s relative gave her a household appliance that you would both use, a court may deem it to be marital property. Usually, items or assets that a person inherits are not marital property.