If my girlfriend gave me a gift but then we broke up and she wants it back, do I have to give it back?

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If my girlfriend gave me a gift but then we broke up and she wants it back, do I have to give it back?

I was moving out of state and my girlfriend gave me her old laptop because she was getting a new one the day I left. Well her mom started about how she gave it away so I was going to give it back to keep her out of trouble. However she then broke up with me so I decided to keep the gift. Do I have a legal obligation to give it back?

Asked on April 25, 2012 under Business Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If it was a gift *when given* you are under no obligation to return it. The key issue, which controls, is the intent when the alleged gift was given--even if the giver thinks better of it later, if it was given as a gift (i.e. not loaned or sold), there is no right to request it back or seek payment for it.

That's the law. As a practical matter, if the ex-girlfriend wants it back badly enough and is prepared to take you to court, including small claims court, over it, it is probably better to return the laptop; when a gift is made without any written memorandization, if she were to sue you, it would essentially come down to your word versus hers (and presumably her mother's, who'd likely also testify). While you would have an advantage, in that the "burden of proof" rests with the one initiating the lawsuit (the plaintiff), the outcome of a lawsuit is never certain; so if it comes to that, it may be best to simply return the laptop.


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