Separation – Who gets the TV?

When couples decide to separate, they must face the difficult and sometimes confusing question of how to divide their personal belongings. The process of working out what belongs to you, can often lead to dispute. What happens, for example, to the painting you bought before you were married, or the television that you purchased together?

Any belongings brought into a marriage by one party are presumed to remain that person’s property after the marriage. So, the much-loved painting acquired before you were married, should still be yours.

What about the television? This is more complicated. Consideration is given to who paid for the television during the marriage.  If it was paid for by one person should it be presumed theirs?  What happens if it is purchased using a joint account? This raises further questions: is the account truly joint and does it depend on who pays into it? Before the Court can decide, it would need to see evidence and be satisfied regarding the intentions of the purchase and who contributed to it.

Wedding gifts, house warming presents and Christmas gifts can also be tricky. Again, the Court would have to consider intentions and who bought the gift for whom. For example, if a relative of one party bought a camera for the couple, it could be presumed that it belongs to that party after the marriage.

I’m often asked what should happen to the engagement ring when a couple separates? Case law indicates that an engagement ring is a gift from one spouse to another and therefore should remain the property of the recipient. 

The division of personal belongings is a complex area and it always best to take a sensible approach. In many cases compromise may be necessary.