Matrimonial Assets – Third Party Gifts


When it comes to the dissolution of a marriage, the division of assets can be a complex and contentious issue.

And what happens when a third party, such as a parent, bestows a gift upon one spouse, like a property?

The critical question that arises in such situations is whether this gift is liable to be divided as a matrimonial asset after a divorce.

Will the recipient of the gift be allowed to retain it, or will it become subject to division between the estranged spouses?

The answer hinges on the intention behind the gift – was it solely intended for one spouse, or has it evolved into a matrimonial asset that both partners should share?

In this article, we explore the intricacies surrounding gifts from third parties in the context of divorce proceedings. We delve into the importance of discerning the giver’s original intentions and the conduct of the parties involved post-gift-receipt.

We also examine the circumstances under which a gift meant for one spouse can undergo a transformation into a matrimonial asset, impacting the division of property.

Is a gift from a third party to one spouse liable to be divided as a matrimonial asset?

In the situation where a third party (for example, a parent), gives one spouse a gift (for example, a property), the overhanging question to ask is; what will happen to the gift after divorce?, Will the receiver of the gift be able to keep it or will it be liable to be divided between the spouses?

The answer depends on whether the gift was given from the third party with the intention of only giving it to one of the spouses.

Even if it was only meant for one spouse, the other can argue that he/she ought to have a share in the gift as it has been transformed into a matrimonial asset.

Is it a gift meant for just one spouse?

The giver’s overt intentions at the time of purchase and the parties’ conduct after receiving the gift are relevant factors to consider.

With regards to overt intention, if the giver gifted the item before the party met his/her spouse, it is quite clear that the gift was only meant for one person.

Meanwhile, for the conduct, while it may not constitute sufficient evidence of the giver’s intention, it is corroborative of the court’s finding to see if the giver intended to benefit the recipient’s family.

For example, if a parent gives property to the child, and the child’s family uses the property as an address in identification documents and makes joint decisions regarding the property, then it may show that the gift is meant for the couple and not just one spouse.

Our divorce lawyers are experienced in matrimonial assets matters and would be able to advise you on your position.

Has the gift that is meant for one spouse been transformed into a matrimonial asset?

There are two ways to transform the gift meant for one spouse into a matrimonial asset. First, matrimonial homes are automatically treated as matrimonial assets.

Second, all other assets besides matrimonial homes have to be substantially improved during the marriage before the other spouse may claim a share of the gift.

What happens when the gift changes form into a different property?

When the gift is transformed into a different property, it remains a gift if the party has no control over the gift’s transformation.

However, if the gift is transformed with a real and unambiguous intention that it should form part of the pool of matrimonial assets, like using the proceeds from the gift to purchase gifts for the other spouse or the family, then it is no longer a gift.

If you find yourself grappling with these questions during a divorce, our experienced divorce lawyers are here to guide you through the complexities of matrimonial assets.

gloria james

gloria james

We’re here for you

When you contact our matrimonial law team, we will provide you with a consultation, tailored to your specific circumstances and goals in mind.

Our goal is to help you find a resolution that works for you.

Contact Us