Is South Asian Jewelry Community Property?

This is a complex question with no clear cut answer. However, there are a multitude of factors to consider. On the date of marriage or immediately prior to the marriage gold or “gem” jewelry is often given as a gift from either side of the family to the bride, groom or both spouses. The value of the jewelry given runs in the tens of thousands of dollars. This does not include an engagement ring given by the groom to the bride prior to the wedding which is considered a gift for the bride in Western culture.

During the pendency of a South Asian divorce, the jewelry is often a point of contention. 

The presumption in Texas courts is that any property whether real or personal acquired during the marriage is community property that is subject to division with the exception of gifts or inheritance. The burden to show otherwise is on the spouse trying to claim property as separate property, or to claim it was a gift or received via inheritance.

The grantor of the gift who in most south asian marriages is a parent of the bride or groom should consider giving a receipt itemizing the jewelry and each item’s cost, an appraisal of the jewelry, photos of each item of jewelry and a detailed card reflecting the date the gift is being bestowed, who the gifts are being given to such as the bride, groom or both. As a result, regardless of whether the gift was given immediately before marriage or during the marriage, these steps can help establish that a gift is being given, to whom, and when.

Finally, often times if the parties in a pending divorce are somewhat amicable, they may reach an agreement on how the jewelry should be divided. In some instances, a spouse may agree to return jewelry items that could be considered heirlooms or passed down from generation to generation in exchange for a monetary sum or just out of “goodwill”.

Traditionally, most gifts of jewelry during the time of marriage are not given with receipts, appraisal values, or cards specifying the recipient. The jewelry given during marriage is worth thousands of dollars and some steps should be taken to document this type of gift. Finally, if you are a resident in Texas, this is a community property state, and if you want to prevent a legal battle in court over jewelry, documenting the gift giving is critical.