Couples often exchange gifts throughout the course of their marriages without considering that the gesture may have any legal implications. Unfortunately, property given from one spouse to another in a kind-hearted act may be the source of contention if the couple later decides to divorce. Interspousal gifts can lead to disputes over ownership rights and the value of the asset, and it is smart for anyone contemplating a divorce to contact an attorney to discuss their rights with regard to gifts to or from their spouse. At McClure Law Group, our knowledgeable Dallas divorce attorneys possess the skills and resources needed to handle complex dissolution matters, and, if you hire us, we will fight to help you pursue the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case.Property Rights in Texas Divorce Proceedings
Under Texas law, property acquired by either spouse during a marriage is generally regarded as community property. There are some key exceptions, however, such as property obtained by a spouse during marriage via devise, descent, or gift. Additionally, damages awarded for personal injuries sustained by a spouse while married are considered separate property unless they constitute compensation for loss of earnings during the marriage. Any non-community property is deemed to be the separate property of the spouses, including property that they acquired before they wed. Any asset that is considered community property is subject to division in a divorce action in a manner that the court deems equitable and just, while separate property remains the property of the spouse that owns it. This is one key reason that interspousal gifts, which generally constitute separate property if properly proved, can be so contentious during divorce proceedings.Interspousal Gifts and Divorce
While establishing that a spouse obtained property via devise, descent, or as compensation for a personal injury is relatively easy, proving that an asset was given from one spouse to another as an interspousal gift can be challenging - especially for items that do not require a deed or other document establishing ownership. The Texas Family Code dictates that a party that argues an asset is separate property must offer evidence that is “clear and convincing” to prove the separate-property nature of the property. While there is no statutory definition for what it takes to meet this evidentiary burden, the courts have interpreted it to mean a measure of proof that will inspire the fact finder (i.e., the judge or jury) to develop a firm conviction or belief that the allegations asserted are true (e.g., that the asset at issue is one spouse’s separate property). Thus, evidence such as emails, text messages, transactional documents, and eyewitness accounts may be helpful to demonstrate whether property should be considered an interspousal gift and, therefore, separate property.
Disagreements often arise in divorce proceedings as to whether one spouse granted ownership rights of an asset to the other spouse or merely permitted them to use and enjoy the property. With regard to real property, establishing the nature of property is relatively easier than with smaller assets. For example, if one spouse transfers the deed to a home to the other spouse, the transfer arguably constitutes a gift, and there is a written deed evidencing this transaction. The home would then most likely be considered the separate property of the receiving spouse if they can properly prove this in court. Similarly, if one spouse uses their separate property to purchase a home in the name of both spouses instead of buying the home in their sole name, it can sometimes be presumed that the purchasing spouse intends to gift half of the property to the other spouse. Notably, if one spouse makes a gift of property to the other spouse, the gift is presumed to include all the income that may arise from that property. As such, it is critical that any property acquired by either party during a marriage is properly characterized in divorce proceedings.Speak with an Experienced Dallas Lawyer
Gifts are typically given with good intentions, but gifts given from one spouse to another may lead to heated disagreements should the couple decide to divorce. If you are considering ending your marriage and have questions regarding interspousal gifts, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about your options. The experienced Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group can advise you of your rights and aid you in gathering the evidence needed to provide you with a strong chance of a favorable result. Our main office is in Dallas, and we frequently meet parties for consultations at our Collin-County office in Plano. We regularly represent people in divorce proceedings in Dallas, Rockwall, Fort Worth, Frisco, Irving, McKinney, Richardson, and Garland. We also help people with other family law disputes in cities in Dallas, Rockwall, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties. You can contact us via our online form or by calling 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting.