If My Ex Gave Me Furniture, Do I Have to Give It Back If We Break Up?

Gifts made during a relationship can be the source of tension and conflict when that relationship breaks down and the reason for giving the gift no longer exists. Although items such as furniture are usually not worth enough to justify hiring a family law lawyer, other gifts such as jewelry, engagement rings or art can be worth going to family court or arbitration over. Still, knowing the law can help you resolve these disputes.

The first big question when dividing property after a relationship is whether you and your spouse were married. If you were married, everything you owned remains yours, but the furniture would be part of your net family property and the value of it would be shared pursuant to section 5 of Ontario’s Family Law Act. In a divorce, section 24 of the Family Law Act says a judge can order that a spouse cannot take the furniture or other contents out of a matrimonial home – regardless of who owns it.)

If you and your ex were never married, then, in Ontario, Family Law does not apply to property issues and you each own what you own and can do what you like with it. That rule can be subject to claims in equity, which separated common-law couples make regularly. You can defeat those claims if you can prove that the gift was clearly a gift. Separating spouses frequently say that a gift was not actually a gift, but a loan, a conditional gift, or something that was meant for both spouses to own together. It is up to the person alleging the gift to prove it. But, if it is clear that the furniture, or other items, were an unconditional gift to you, then they are yours to deal with as you like. If you have any doubt as to whether it was an unconditional gift, you probably need to speak to a family law lawyer about the specifics of your case.

John Schuman Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law book cover

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of parenting cases (parenting time and decision making), child support, spousal support, property division, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback. But to understand how the law works precisely in your situation, it is always best to speak to a good Family Law Lawyer.

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