Gifts in Contemplation of Marriage
What if a marriage between two parties never takes place? Is the donor or the giver of the gift permitted to recover the premarital gift given to the recipient, his or her future spouse? Whether or not the donor is entitled to recover the premarital gift depends upon the circumstances. If the gift was conditioned on the marriage, either explicitly or implicitly, then the donor may recover the gift depending upon the facts in the case.
States differ on their interpretation of whether the donor is entitled to recover the gift if the marriage does not occur. The following are some examples of how states interpret whether the donor is entitled to recover the gift if a marriage does not occur:
- If the donor gave the gift after the engagement, then some courts consider the gift conditional and find that the donor is entitled to recover the gift.
- If the donor gave the gift prior to the engagement, a condition may not exist and the donor may not be entitled to recover the gift. This scenario may arise with respect to holiday or birthday gifts or events unrelated to the underlying engagement.
- If the court finds that a condition exists, the donor may recover the gift if the recipient breaks the engagement or if the parties’ engagement ends by way of mutual consent.
- If the donor refuses to honor the condition of marriage, the recipient may keep the gift.
- If the donor makes a gift to a minor conditioned upon marriage, the donor may recover the gift if the minor or both parties consent to the end of the engagement.
- If the recipient of the gift is a minor and the minor disposes of the gift regardless of whether a condition existed or not, the donor is not entitled to recover the gift after the disposal thereof because any contract of marriage to a minor is void.
- If a third party gives a gift in contemplation of marriage, the donor is usually able to recover the gift.
In states that have enacted laws prohibiting actions for breach of contract to marry, the donor may not be entitled to file an action for the return of gifts in contemplation of marriage. Other states permit the filing of actions for a breach of contract to marry. In those states, the donor may be entitled to also file another action for the return of any gifts to the recipient given in contemplation of marriage.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.