Recently a California Trial Court issued a judgment against in favor of Shelly Sterling in the amount of $2.8 million dollars. You remember Ms. Stiviano; she was the sugar baby to Donald Sterling the former owner of the Clippers NBA basketball team. Mr. Sterling had given Ms. Stiviano many very expensive gifts such as a Ferrari, Bentley, a 1.8 million dollar duplex and many other luxurious and expensive gifts. The Court ordered Ms. Stiviano to return the items or the cash equivalent of $2.8 million dollars.
The theory that was used is, since Shelly Sterling did not consent to the gifts they must be returned. The law used was Family Code Section 1100(b) which states “ A spouse may not make a gift of community personal property, or dispose of community personal property for less than fair and reasonable value, without the written consent of the other spouse.” Now being a divorce lawyer I have used this sections countless times in order to hold the offending spouse accountable for their squandering community property assets for a selfish purpose. Now when this code is used it is normally used to seek a credit from the offending spouse i.e. if Wife gives her Mother $50,000 to help her without Husband knowing or agreeing to it, then when the community assets are divided (in a divorce) then Wife must give Husband his ½ interest in the $50,000 which would be $25,000.00. Or if Husband goes gives his child a gift of $100,000 to help him buy a house then in a division of the community assets wife is entitled to her $50,000 share back.
Never, in 23 years as a Family Law Attorney have I seen a Court order the third party to return the full value of the items given to them as a gift. In my opinion this ruling is setting a course for a dramatic increase in litigation. The spouse who hated the in-laws now has a cause of action to retrieve all the secrete gifts given to them. No longer can you help your child against your spouse’s wishes for fear of your child being sued by the step-parent. And for those Sugar Daddies, you should give all your Sugar Babies a disclosure with those Louboutins and jewels, “SUBJECT TO FINAL APPROVAL OF MY WIFE”.