Who Keeps the Engagement Bling? - The Men's Legal Center


Engagement rings have such sentimental value that should the contemplated marriage not take place, you can expect fireworks. The groom may have spent a lot of money on the engagement ring for his future bride. Often, he has put the purchase on his credit card. Yikes! After the marriage is canceled, recouping the ring becomes a financial issue for the groom.

Let us say the husband gives his wife jewelry on their anniversary. Is the gift community property? Well, it depends. Since it is a gift of a “personal nature that is used solely by the spouse.” But family law applies a second test, namely the gift must be “not substantial in value taking into account circumstances of the marriage.”

If a world-famous actor, who earns millions of dollars yearly gives his wife a million-dollar ring, it is a gift. If a middle-income husband gives his wife a ring of substantial value given the parties’ overall financial status and lifestyle, the ring is community property unless there is an expressed written transfer from community property status to the wife’s separate property.

An interesting case came up in 2009 in California. The couple was wealthy. The husband used the wife’s separate money to purchase a Porsche, which was not of substantial value given the parties’ wealth and lifestyle. Should it be considered a gift? The court ruled that the Porsche was not an “article of personal nature,” and therefore the wife was entitled to reimbursement of her money.

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