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Family law: How are gifts between spouses treated in divorce

Washington is a community property state in which all assets accumulated by the couple during their marriage considered to be owned equally by each partner, and subject to property division in the event of a divorce. This community property concept also applies to debts. One of the frequently asked questions for family law attorneys involves gifts that the spouses gave each other during the marriage.

Gifts from one spouse to the other during the marriage were most likely purchased with marital assets, making the gifts community property. However, gifts exchanged between the two parties before the wedding, such as an engagement ring, will likely be regarded as the separate property of the recipient of the gift. Similarly, personal gifts and inheritances given to one spouse by other people will remain his or her personal property, unless it becomes commingled with the community property such as using inheritance funds to pay for renovations on the family home.  Gifts that the parties receive as a couple will be community property.

If one spouse receives a car as a gift from the other spouse, the funds used will likely be community funds, and even if the car loan is in the name of one spouse only, payments would have been made with marital funds. For this reason, the vehicle will be community property. The court might award the car to the recipient of the gift who will likely be the primary user of it. However, the loan provider has no interest in marital status, and it will hold any person whose name is on the loan responsible. If that spouse fails to maintain loan payments, the vehicle might be repossessed, regardless of whether it was awarded to the other spouse by the court during the property division.

It is only natural for anyone who has never been through a divorce to have questions about matters like property division, child-related issues and more. Fortunately, no one in Washington has to deal with these challenges without the support and guidance of an experienced family law attorney. The client can then be better equipped to make informed decisions about matters that may provide a base for post-divorce financial stability.

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