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p435 Donatio propter Nuptias

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p435 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

DONATIO PROPTER NUPTIAS. The meaning of this term is explained in the Institutiones (2 7 §3). It was originally called Donatio ante nuptias, because it could not take place after the marriage; but when it was made legal to increase the donatio after marriage, and even to constitute it altogether after marriage, the more comprehensive term donatio propter nuptias was used. If a dos had been given by the wife, or on the part of the wife, and the husband by the terms of the contract was entitled to it, or to a part of it in case of the wife's death, it was necessary that the husband, or some person on the part of the husband, should give or secure something to the wife which she should have in the event of the husband's death; this was a donatio propter nuptias. Justinian's legislation required that the donatio must be equal to what was secured to the husband in case of the wife's death, and that it must be increased if the dos was increased during the marriage. The husband had the management of the property given as donatio. Such part of it as consisted of things immoveable he could not alienate or pledge even with the consent of the wife, unless she ratified her consent after two years. If the husband became impoverished during the marriage, the wife was entitled to the profits of the donatio for her support; and it was not liable to the demands of the creditors. If the marriage was dissolved by the death of the wife, the husband was entitled to the donatio; unless some third person, who had made the donatio, was entitled to have it by the terms of the agreement. If the husband died, the event had happened with reference to which the donatio was made; the wife had the ususfructus of the donatio, and the property of it belonged to the children of the marriage if there were any: if there were no children, the wife obtained by the death of the husband full power of disposition over the property included in the donatio.

The opinions of modern jurists are much divided as to the notions, purpose, and law of the donatio propter nuptias. The term donatio propter nuptias is used by Bracton (II. c39); and the law, as there stated, is apparently formed upon a Roman original.

(Cod. 5 tit. 3; Nov. 22, c20; 97 c1, 2; 98 c1, 2; Mackeldey, Lehrbuch, &c. § 528, 12th ed.; Thibaut, System, &c. § 742, 9th ed.; Ortolan, Explication Historique des Instituts, etc., vol. I p479.)


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