My Dad Is Demanding I Return All Gifts Before Moving Out—What Should I Do?

Teen packing

Dear Newsweek, I’m getting ready to move out of my parents’ house. One parent, the primary breadwinner, says that everything that was paid for with his money, including gifts, belongs to him. The other parent, who also works, is scared of that parent but says that gifts and other things that people buy for others belong to their recipients. They share a bank account.

I have bought items for myself, with my own money and gift cards, and most of what I call my possessions were bought by my parents, with my parents’ money, for me. I don’t want them to call the police on me for theft when I leave.

How should I handle my parents’ differences in opinion regarding ownership, especially as it relates to what I can pack without legal trouble?

Alicia, Unknown

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A stock image of a teenager packing her belongings. A Newsweek reader has asked for advice about the ownership of her belongings that were purchased by her parents.
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Moving Out Is a Good Decision

Ruth E. Freeman is founder and president at Peace at Home Parenting Solutions, which delivers classes to encourage better communication. She is also a psychotherapist who has worked with families in crisis to offer parenting education to a variety of situations.

This sad scenario reveals the father’s values quite clearly—money over people. However, the most concerning issue is the fear in this family. The daughter reports that mom is afraid of dad and the daughter herself fears that he will send the police after her. The good news is that the daughter is getting out of the house!

First, let’s be clear that gifts belong to recipients. Second, what is dad going to do with his daughter’s belongings? How are they of use to him? It seems he wants to simply be in control, and claiming these things is one way to do it. But all that aside, hopefully, the daughter will not be intimidated by dad and recognize that he would have a hard time convincing police that his daughter’s belongings are actually his.

Second, if by some remote chance, dad could actually engage the police in this ridiculous endeavor, the daughter can simply return whatever dad is claiming. Hopefully, she will simply take whatever she believes to be hers and let dad…

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