Will the Judge award my Grandmother’s pearls to my husband in the divorce?
The short answer is barring some extraordinary circumstance, no.
In a divorce (officially a dissolution of marriage), the court must set aside to each party his or her separate property. Separate property is property that you had when you were married or property that you received after the marriage by gift or inheritance just to you. The ways that you can prove a gift are by evidence like a card or note from the giver of the gift or a sworn statement from the giver of the gift as to his or her intent. The nature of the gift may also support the claim that is a gift just to you: a shotgun from your grandfather to a life-long hunter is one thing, but a set of candlesticks that were a present on your first anniversary that have always been in the dining room are quite another.
Before you decide to contest your husband’s claim that his Lionel train set is his separate property or that your wife’s collection of Madame Alexander dolls is her separate property because “we had to repair them and store them”, think about how you will look to the Judge.
Two distinct issues that you should discuss with your attorney are the rule that increases in the value of separate property due to the contribution of marital funds or labor are marital property and also the rule that separate property and marital property may become so intermingled that the separate property is transmuted into marital property.
Issues relating to the characterization of property as marital or separate are tricky. Be certain to discuss your particular situation with an experienced family law attorney before making any final decisions.