What Happens to the Engagement Ring in a Divorce?
Most marriages begin with a proposal and an engagement ring. In some cases, the engagement rings are heirloom pieces passed on for generations. When the marriage breaks down, the spouse who proposed with the heirloom ring may wonder if he can have the ring returned as part of the divorce.
Whether property is divided in a divorce depends on whether the property is considered marital or non-marital property. In almost all situations, engagement rings are considered gifts given before marriage, in contemplation of marriage. Therefore, if the wedding doesn’t happen, the person who received the engagement ring can be compelled to return the ring. However, once the wedding takes place and the couple is legally married, the engagement ring belongs to the spouse who received it, as non-marital property.
The rule is not different when the engagement ring involved is a family heirloom. In one case, a Florida court found that an engagement ring given to a woman in contemplation of marriage was her non-marital property and there was no exception under Florida law for a family heirloom. The woman who got the family heirloom had a legal right to keep the ring, and did not have to return it to her husband, or pass it on to her children as he would have preferred.
It is important to note that inter-spousal gifts given during marriage are considered marital property, and would therefore be subject to equitable division in a divorce. If a spouse gives the other spouse a family heirloom ring as a gift after the wedding takes place, the ring would most likely be deemed marital property and be divided accordingly. A gift of the engagement ring directly from a grandmother or mother to the prospective spouse as a gift before the marriage and just as the grandmother or mother is expecting to pass away is likely to be non-marital property that will not be returned or divided in the event of a divorce.
As unromantic as it sounds, if a person wants to give a future spouse an heirloom ring, he should take precautions to ensure it is not awarded as non-marital property. One way to do this would be to use a prenuptial agreement which provides that in the event of a divorce, the heirloom engagement ring will be returned to the person who gave it.
As with other prenuptial agreements, the person who wants the agreement signed has to be careful that the agreement is not signed under duress. There may also be other ways to negotiate with a spouse in order to get an engagement ring back. In order to learn more about your legal options regarding such negotiations, you should contact a divorce attorney.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney
Determining which property is marital or non-marital property can be difficult. If you are thinking of filing for divorce and would like more information about Florida’s equitable division of marital property and debt, contact an experienced Boca Raton, Florida divorce attorney at Law Offices of Schwartz l White for a consultation.