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Splitting Assets: Who Gets Our Gifts and Personal Belongings?

Dividing all the things you own during a divorce can be messy. While property and the retirement accounts are worth discussing, sometimes it’s the “little” things that cause the most concern. After all, when you split households, who gets the dishes and other household items can be a big deal. What about the furniture you bought?


Gifts are a common concern. Things your parents bought for your spouse might feel more like “yours” than “his,” for example. Here are some everyday gift situations and how to handle them:

  • Rings – In most states, engagement rings are considered a gift. The partner who gave it should not expect to get it back, especially since it was probably given before marriage. Wedding bands are often considered separate property so that each partner can keep his/hers.
  • Gifts from Family Members – You probably received many presents from family members while you were married. These might be Christmas gifts for the two of you together or separate things your parents gave for her birthday. Whatever the case, the law says a gift is given to the individual and are not marital property. North Carolina is not a community property state, but even in those cases, gifts are typically considered separate. Check with your lawyer if you have questions about this.
  • A Gift of Property – Perhaps a generous family member gave you both some property as a gift. To whom it belongs depends on many things. If it truly is a gift to both of you, it is joint property. But whose name is on the deed? If only one partner’s name is on the deed, you will need evidence that the giver meant it for both of you.
  • Your Gifts to Others During Separation – If you are giving gifts during the period of separation, check with your attorney about that spending. If you are using money considered marital assets, that money will need to be divided evenly, and any money you give as a gift will still be counted.

Personal Items

Generally speaking, couples can divide up their personal stuff in the manner of their choosing. If possible, go through everything and decide who gets what. In less-amicable situations, that may not be possible.

  • Furniture – Furniture you purchased together is marital property to be split. However, if you have a couch you bought before you were married, that item is yours.
  • Stuff Left Behind – Divorce or separation often results in a messy departure. If you left the marital home, you might be wondering about items you couldn’t pack in a hurry. If this sounds familiar, you’ll need to speak to your attorney about the best steps, which may differ. But remember, any joint property should be divided or sold and profits divided. In the meantime, you are allowed to return to the home and get things you need such as your clothes or your children’s items. If your spouse is preventing you from doing these things, talk to your attorney about getting some court-ordered help.

Do you have questions about dividing assets during divorce? We’re here to help – text, chat, or call us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys, or talk to a lawyer during our monthly workshop, held on the second Saturday of each month.


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