by Suzanne Sachs • 5 min read
THE BASICS --
No couple, when shopping for an engagement ring, gives thought to what may happen to that ring in the event of a divorce. But who does keep an engagement ring if a couple splits? The origin and cost of the ring, when and where it was given, the length of the marriage, and other factors must all be considered.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW--
In this guide, we will explain the following:
- What an engagement ring really is?
- If a couple splits before a wedding
- When does the relationship end?
- Who keeps an engagement ring in a divorce?
- Different claims
- Heirloom engagement ring
- How to find a divorce lawyer near me?
- Finding a divorce lawyer
- Paperwork and certificate
- Jewelry appraisal
- Personal Agreement
- Determining who keeps the engagement ring
What an Engagement Ring Really Is?
An engagement ring is more than just a piece of jewelry. For many young couples, it may be one of the most significant purchases they have ever made – the average cost of an engagement ring is $5,000. Furthermore, the ring is a promise shared between a devoted couple, which represents an implicit vow in good faith to wed and share their lives together. For some couples, the ring may also be another type of gift given on a birthday, holiday, or to celebrate another special occasion, or it may be a family heirloom with a long history and immeasurable sentimental value.
All of these factors must be considered when determining who keeps an engagement ring in a divorce.
If a Couple Splits Before the Wedding
• When Does the Relationship End
If a couple ends their relationship before becoming legally married, the disposition of the engagement ring is simpler. Because the ring is most often viewed as a “conditional gift” – the condition being the promise to marry – it typically is returned to the individual who purchased it.
Confusion can arise if the engagement ring is presented as a different sort of gift, such as given for a birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, graduation, or other special occasion gift coupled with the marriage proposal. In these cases, the ring might be considered an “unconditional gift” and could remain with the person to whom it was given.
Some consideration must be made to how the engagement ends, however. If the inherent promise of the engagement is broken by abuse, infidelity, or a change in the intent to marry, the ring may go to the individual who still remained committed to the relationship and eventual marriage. In other words, the person “responsible” for the breakup could forfeit any claim to the ring.
Couples who mutually decide to reconsider their relationship and end an engagement may decide to split the return of the ring by either returning it to the original retailer, if possible, or else pawning or selling the ring and splitting the money. This is especially true if the ring was a large and expensive purchase, or if both individuals contributed to its cost.
Finally, if an engagement ring is a family heirloom, it is generally returned to that family as a sentimental piece.
Who Keeps the Engagement Ring in a Divorce?
• Different Claims
After a couple has married, the claims regarding an engagement ring can differ somewhat. If the marriage was a very short one, the guidelines are very similar to if the marriage had never taken place. Longer relationships, however, have different considerations.
Because the promise to wed has been fulfilled, the ring may belong to the person to whom it was given. The longer the marriage, the stronger this claim can be. In most cases, however, the individual considered “at fault” in the divorce – responsible for ending the relationship – is still expected to return the ring to the other party, even after a number of years.
• Heirloom Engagement Ring
No matter what the length of the marriage, an heirloom engagement ring should be returned to the family from which it came. The exception is if there is already a child in the new marriage. In that case, the ring may be kept to eventually be passed to the child if they would like to continue the tradition. While either parent may keep the ring to pass it along, generally the parent who has primary or full custody would then keep the engagement ring, especially if the other parent may not be strongly involved in the child’s life. If the child is older, the ring may be moved to a safe deposit box or listed in a trust as the child’s property already, or could even be given to an older child right away.
How to Find a Divorce Lawyer Near Me?
• Finding a Divorce Lawyer
Laws regarding engagement rings as marital property can vary in different states; if an engagement ring is a contested piece of property or if there may be any question about its disposition, it is essential to consult with an experienced divorce attorney for guidance.
Consulting a divorce lawyer is especially critical if the ring is very expensive or if the divorce is a contentious one. This will ensure all appropriate possession and marital property laws are followed correctly.
To find a divorce lawyer to help determine the engagement ring’s fate, look for an experienced attorney accustomed to working with large assets or complicated divorce settlements. The attorney should have an established practice in the state where the couple resides and the divorce is filed, but may also need to be familiar with property laws in the state where the engagement and marriage took place, if different. This can help ensure every applicable law is considered to ensure there is no impropriety with how the ring’s fate is decided. If necessary, a divorce attorney in one state may consult with a colleague in another state to clarify how various laws could potentially apply to a contested engagement ring.
• Paperwork and Certificate
When speaking with a divorce attorney about an engagement ring, have as much of the ring’s paperwork available as possible. This includes purchase receipts, repair orders, inspection records, and any documentation of changes to the ring, such as resetting a diamond, resizing the ring, or soldering a ring set together. If the couple had a prenuptial agreement, that paperwork should also be provided to the attorney, even if the engagement ring may not be specifically listed in the agreement.
• Jewelry Appraisal
If the ring was purchased years ago or has been altered from its original design, it may be necessary to get a new jewelry appraisal to confirm the ring’s current value. This can help with division of other assets and compensation for the ring’s value with respect to other possessions.
• Personal Agreement
While it is important to follow all legal rulings with regard to splitting assets during a divorce, including how the engagement ring is handled, couples can make their own mutual agreements about the ring. Regardless of the ring’s original cost, who gave it to whom, when it was given, or who initiated the divorce, if a couple agrees on an unconventional fate for the ring, they can follow through with their unique wishes.
If those wishes go against typical arrangements, however, it is best to outline the engagement ring’s disposition in the divorce agreement, which will be signed by both parties. This ensures that everyone is aware of the arrangement and agrees to abide by it, despite some unconventional terms.
Determining Who Keeps the Engagement Ring
It can be challenging to determine who keeps an engagement ring in a divorce, and the answer isn’t always perfectly straightforward. Different couples will have different considerations, and many factors must be weighed when deciding the fate of such an expensive and potentially sentimental piece of jewelry. By working with an experienced divorce attorney, however, a couple can dispense the ring suitably, no matter what the eventual outcome of the divorce arrangements.
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