Sarah Dodds, Senior Associate, Kingsley Napley
Liam Hurren, Trainee Solicitor, Kingsley Napley
When a couple separates, thoughts often turn to the valuable or sentimental items which they acquired or gifted to each other during the relationship. In the event of a dispute as to who owns what, the court has the power to make orders in respect of personal property. However, not all gifts are treated the same. While engagement rings generally remain with the recipient and wedding gifts from relatives or friends of one spouse are generally taken to be gifts to that individual spouse, when it comes to gifts between spouses or where the gift is an heirloom, the position may be more complex. For example, gifts may be made subject to a condition (e.g. that they will be returned in the event of a relationship breakdown) or it may be necessary to investigate whether the legal requirements for a ‘gift’ were satisfied at all. Heirlooms are often considered a special class of gift, their nature and source warranting a departure from equality, but this is by no means a certainty. A consideration of the nuances of this area and some sensitive advice may be required where a dispute arises.