Everyone gets gifts. Whether Christmas, a birthday or a wedding, you received at least a gift or two. (Unless Santa put coal in your stocking.) When it comes to gifts typically no one expects a request from Aunt Karen to return her gift. When someone gives a gift there is an expectation of permanency. For the most part, this holds true in divorce as well. This creates an irrevocable gift.
So, what makes a gift? You have to intend to give it to someone as a gift, actually give the person the gift and the person must accept the gift. If those facts exist, the property is a gift. However, some gifts are given with conditions. One of these being an engagement ring given to someone with the promise the couple will marry.
The Texas Family Code states that property owned prior to marriage and personal injury claims recovery except loss of earning capacity continue as a person’s separate property. The code also states any gift, devise or descent remains separate property as well. This means that property you got in a will stays yours. That Apple Watch you got for your birthday? Yours as well. That Christmas gift remains yours. However, you need to prove this as there is an assumption made in every case that all the property is community property (owned by the married couple together). So, make sure you keep records if they’re available.
What about engagement rings? The conditional-gift rule applies stated in Curtis v. Anderson. If you break off the engagement before the marriage and received a ring, expect to give it back. However, if the person who gave the ring breaks it off, there’s no contractual reason to get the ring back.
What about after you get married? Well, Texas courts have determined over and over that once the couple is married they have completed their promise to get married and therefore the ring becomes their separate property. Although not always the case with family heirlooms, more often than not the heirloom becomes your spouse’s property. It comes down to an argument of fairness and sentimental value. So, make sure you really think it’ll last before giving that special someone your Grandmother’s ring. Options do exist though for ways to get the ring back or the other gift if you are willing to get creative.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation and need to discuss this with someone, reach out to an attorney for some advice and direction. Please feel free to give Rasley Law Group a call at 972-584-7626 or visit our website at www.rasleylaw.com.