It’s Valentine’s Day! And it falls on a Friday so you may be going out tonight and planning to give your special someone an expensive engagement ring and live happily ever after. Hopefully, that’s how life turns out for you but for some, the wedding never occurs and there is a bitter battle over who gets the engagement ring.
You might be surprised to know that this is apparently such a common occurrence that the California legislature decided to enact a code section to deal with the problem. California Civil Code Section 1590 states:
“Where either party to a contemplated marriage in this State makes a gift of money or property to the other on the basis or assumption that the marriage will take place, in the event that the donee refuses to enter into the marriage as contemplated or that it is given up by mutual consent, the donor may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just.”
As you can see from the above, it makes a difference in California who breaks the engagement when it comes to which party will end up with the engagement ring. (Other states have different rules.) It can be complicated to determine but the court will look at all the circumstances, with the recipient of the ring generally entitled to keep the ring if the engagement (marriage contract) was broken by the donor without any fault on the recipient’s part.
This code section is important in the insurance context also as sometimes, only one of the parties insures the ring. If the ring is stolen, and this is sometimes alleged after a break up occurs and a request for return of the ring is met with a refusal, you may be faced with the question of which party had an insurable interest in the property. You will likely need to take statements, and sort through e-mails and other evidence to determine whether the ring was an engagement ring, or simply a gift, and to determine the rightful owner under California Civil Code Section 1590. This code section does not provide the answers but it does give some guidance.
Happy Valentine’s Day!