A Gift with Strings Attached: How Courts Address Gifts between Spouses in Divorce
Frances Bean Cobain, daughter of late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain and singer Courtney Love, has recently been in the news for her divorce from singer Isaiah Silva. The divorce was very contentious and proceedings were pending for several years. The parties recently reach a property settlement agreement. In the agreement, Silva was awarded the 1959 Martin D-18E guitar that Kurt Cobain played during Nirvana’s iconic MTV Unplugged session in 1993. Silva claimed that the guitar was a gift from Frances prior to the parties’ marriage. Frances denied ever giving the guitar to Silva. Love has also been very outspoken that the guitar was a family heirloom that Frances could not give away. The guitar is said to be worth several million dollars and was one of only a few hundred of its kind ever made.
How does something like this happen in a divorce? The Pennsylvania Divorce Code provides for mechanisms to divide a couple’s marital and separate property through equitable distribution. The Code also spells out the definition of marital property. Specifically related to gifts, 23 Pa. C.S. 3501(a)(3) states that marital property does not include “Property acquired by gift, except between spouses.” Therefore, gifts between spouses in Pennsylvania are considered marital property and subject to equitable distribution by the court if the matter proceeds to litigation. Otherwise, the parties can mutually agree, as did Frances and Silva, that certain gifts belong to one party or the other.
But the saga of the guitar does not end here. Last week a law suit was filed by Silva alleging that Love’s business manager Sam Lutfi, and two other men, kidnapped, assaulted and threaten him in order to reacquire the guitar. There is no information on whether any criminal charges have or will be filed related to this incident.
If you or someone you know is considering divorce and would like information on how to address gifts between spouses, click or call 610-892-3877.