Are Gifts Subject to Division in a Tennessee Divorce?

married couple taking off their wedding rings

Navigating a divorce can be tricky, especially concerning the division of property. You may be going through your assets and wondering if gifts or inherited assets are subject to division during your divorce. It is a complicated process. Sometimes gifts are subject to division and sometimes they are not. If you are going through a divorce and have questions regarding asset distribution, contact a Memphis, Tennessee property division lawyer for assistance.

What is Marital Property?

The first step in any division of property is determining which assets are marital property and which assets are individual property. Under Tennessee law, only marital property is subject to division during a divorce. If you have been married for a number of years it is likely that as a couple you have accumulated a significant amount of shared assets and property. Examples of marital assets can include:

  • Houses
  • Vacation property
  • Cars
  • Cash and bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts, pensions, and 401k
  • Stocks and bonds

Property that one spouse owned before the marriage is typically considered to be separate property. However, individual property can become marital property over the course of the marriage. For example, if one spouse owned a house before the marriage it would be considered separate property but if the other spouse contributed to the property financially or through maintenance and upkeep, a court may deem it joint property.

Is Tennessee an Equitable Distribution State?

Tennessee is what is known as an equitable distribution state, which is different than a community property state where each spouse gets 50% of the value of the assets. Equitable distribution means that a court will determine the division of assets by what is fair and equitable, which in a lot of instances, means that assets will not be split down the middle.

Are Gifts Considered Marital Property During a Divorce?

According to Tennessee law, gifts and inheritance are considered separate property. This means that they are not subject to division during a divorce. However, similarly to how a home can become joint property over time, an individual gift or inheritance can become marital property.

For example, if one spouse inherited money and deposited it in a joint bank account, the money has become marital property. Or if the couple used that money to purchase a family home, then it could be considered joint property.

A gift can become marital property too. If your spouse got you a dog as a birthday gift, you may assume that the dog will be yours in the divorce since it was gifted to you. However, if over the years both you and your spouse took care of the dog and paid for food, toys, etc. then the dog may actually be considered marital property in a court of law.

Division of assets can be complex and confusing, so obtain the services of a knowledgeable lawyer for help.