Donative Intent Ruling Gives Wife Property Rights

- Gary E. Williams

A former husband and wife have been embroiled in a lengthy property dispute because the ex-wife believes that her ex-husband has “donative intent”.

The couple were married in 1987. Prior to walking down the aisle both had prenuptial agreements in place which stated that all premarital properties would remain their own in the event of a divorce.

After filing for divorce in 2010, the former wife has been battling over two properties on which her name is not on the title. Her argument is that her ex-husband had “donative intent” and so the two properties should be distributed equally amongst them in the dissolution of the marriage.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Trial Court’s Decision

The trial court initially agreed with the ex-wife, but the decision was later appealed. The case was taken to the Florida Supreme Court which upheld the trial court’s decision, ruling that the husband did have donative intent.

Equitable distribution was then granted on the two properties in question. The Supreme Court is still determining whether it will issue a final ruling or grant the motion for rehearing.

What Is Donative Intent?

Donative intent means that an individual has the conscious desire to give someone property as a gift and that the gift is not being given by mistake or because the giver of the gift is under any kind of pressure.

What makes the case above interesting is that the property was not titled in the wife’s name and both parties had their own prenuptial agreements stating that their pre-marital property would be kept separate.

But adding a spouse’s name on a title also does not mean that it will be eligible for equitable distribution. Let’s say a husband has pre-marital property, marries his wife, and the husband then places the wife’s name on a title to that property.

  • The wife can claim that the husband had “donative intent” and that adding her name on the property was a “gift”, therefore leaving the property eligible for equitable distribution
  • The husband may be able to avoid equitable distribution by claiming that he added his wife’s name on the title to avoid creditors

Protect Your Property with The Law Firm for Family Law

How you retitle your properties and your intentions throughout the course of a marriage can have a significant impact on how that property will be divided in a divorce. If you are facing a divorce and have questions about property division or another family law matter, contact The Law Firm for Family Law in Clearwater at (727) 531-8737.