The engagement ring and wedding band—symbols of love and commitment. But what happens when the relationship breaks apart?

Well, it depends on the stage at which the relationship ends.

When an Engagement Is Called Off

Under California law, the gift of an engagement ring creates what’s called a “conditional promise,” meaning if the marriage is called off by the recipient or by both parties, the ring is to be returned to the giver.  

California Civil Code Section 1590 addresses this as follows:

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 Section 1590 states, if the recipient does not have the ring (having sold it) or refuses to return it, then the giver may recover all or some of the value of the gift.  

When a Marriage Ends in Divorce

So what happens in a divorce?  

Keeping in mind the engagement ring’s continued ownership in the recipient is conditioned on following through with the marriage, when the wedding ring is presented to the recipient and the marriage is officially valid, the wedding set becomes the separate property of that party and remains so in case of a divorce.

California Family Code Section 770 describes separate property, the distinction of which is very important in a community property state like California.

(a) Separate property of a married person includes all of the following:

(1) All property owned by the person before marriage.

(2) All property acquired by the person after marriage by gift, bequest, devise, or descent.

(3) The rents, issues, and profits of the property described in this section.

(b) A married person may, without the consent of the person’s spouse, convey the person’s separate property.

Your San Diego divorce attorney can explain to you the difference between community property and separate property under California law. If you are contemplating a divorce, be sure to get legal advice so you know how the courts will treat all of your property.

Contact a San Diego Divorce Lawyer

When you’re going through a divorce, an experienced divorce attorney can help you understand the process.

If you are considering divorce or have already made the difficult decision to pursue divorce and have questions, contact JWB Family Law to schedule a free consultation.

Getting divorced in San Diego County?

Call us today at 619.234.6123.