Who Gets to Keep the Ring in a Divorce or Broken Engagement?
Rings and other jewelry given to commemorate or symbolize the marriage of two people naturally create a lot of emotional attachment for both the giver and receiver. These items are usually quite expensive, and in some relationships, represent the most valuable piece of property either person owns. Thus, when a ring is presented to mark an engagement or wedding, it can be a significant financial and emotional commitment. Unfortunately, not all relationships last, with some ending in divorce and others terminating before the wedding even takes place. Given the investment a spouse or partner makes when purchasing an engagement or wedding ring, as well as the sentimental value the recipient often has for the object, both parties may want to lay a claim for keeping or getting back this item. A discussion of how the law treats ownership rights to engagement or wedding rings in the event of divorce or a broken engagement will follow below.
Most states, including Florida, consider engagement rings to be conditional gifts that bring an implication that a marriage will occur at some point. Because a marriage is an implied condition attached to an engagement ring, the giver has the right to retrieve this property if that condition is not satisfied, i.e., the marriage is called off. However, in order for this rule to apply, the marriage must be cancelled by the receiver or through mutual consent. If the giver calls off the wedding, he/she would likely not have a claim for the return of the ring, but this result could change if bad acts by the receiver prompted the giver’s decision, such as an affair or stealing money. Determining which party is entitled to the ring often requires a court to assess who was responsible for the breakup, which can be a complicated and demanding process and needs the attention of an experienced family law attorney to ensure the issues are presented appropriately and effectively.
One additional complication that can arise with engagement rings is if the gift could be classified as unconditional. This situation is typically associated with giving an engagement as part of a special occasion, such as Christmas, a birthday or Valentines’ Day. In these circumstances, one party could argue the gift was associated with the special occasion and not the promise to marry.
In divorce, both spouses are entitled to a share of the marital assets, but engagement rings are usually viewed as premarital gifts, and thus, separate property that remains with the receiver. An engagement ring typically loses its legal connection to the giver once the condition of marriage is fulfilled, and becomes the personal property of the recipient. This means the value of the ring is not factored into the marital estate, and is not subject to the division of marital assets Florida divorce law authorizes. Further, heirloom jewelry given in contemplation of marriage receives the same treatment if the marriage ends in divorce, and the giver usually cannot retrieve the jewelry unless there is a valid prenuptial agreement in place that states the family heirlooms must be returned to the giver.
Consult a Florida Divorce Attorney
Retaining property that is rightfully yours and receiving a property settlement that represents a fair division of your contribution to the marriage is crucial to moving past divorce. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. are here to answer your questions and concerns about property division in divorce, and offer free initial consultations to assess the facts of your case. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-672-1900 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+