Nature of gifts at issue in couple’s divorce
Published: January 5, 2012
Tags: Domestic Relations, Henrico County Circuit Court, Divorce Attorney, Judge Daniel T. Balfour
When a wife’s father said that a $15,000 payment was for “y’all,” he made a joint gift to the couple, despite his later testimony that he intended only to help his daughter.
Henrico Circuit Judge Daniel T. Balfour had to weigh a number of gifts in Polich v. Polich (VLW 011-8-232) to determine whether they were separate or joint.
The $15,000 gift was used for an improvement to the jointly owned house and garage in suburban Richmond.
The Poliches, Balfour wrote, were both in their 50s, with one remaining child at home, a senior at Mills Godwin High School. The marriage had been deteriorating for some time until they sought a divorce.
The money for the home improvement was one of a number of gifts the wife’s father made over the years to his daughter.
A car he gave her was a gift only to her. But in 1998 the dad paid a $12,500 credit card debt. The debt was incurred by both parties with different purchases and the payment benefitted both, so it was a gift to both, Balfour held.
Also, the wife said that she had thanked her father for his assistance to “us,” the judge said.
But cash gifts of $10,000, clearly made to qualify for the gift tax exemption, were separate.
Balfour parsed through these gifts and other monies received through the years (including a large inheritance the wife received upon her mother’s death) to determine the respective portions of the marital home, which he found was hybrid property due to the parties’ respective financial contributions.
Balfour said that neither of the parties was entitled to receive an award of attorney’s fees from the other.
However, he did order the wife to pay $3,000 for the attorney’s fees of a college boyfriend of the wife. The husband had subpoenaed him to appear in the case.
Balfour wrote that “immediately prior to, during and after the separation,” the wife reconnected with this man, talking and texting him for over six hours over a two-month period.
The wife testified there was no physical relationship and that she had only a close an “advisory” relationship with him, seeking advice about a divorce lawyer and other matters.
Balfour said that given the “numerous text messages and innumerable telephone conversations,” the husband “had reason to be concerned.”
It would be “incongruous” to require him to pay the man’s legal fees. Balfour said that expense she be borne by the wife.