One of the first questions we often are asked at a divorce consultation is “what happens to the ring?” If you are married, the engagement ring probably was one of the biggest gifts you had ever bought (or received) when you got engaged. It’s not surprising that people often wonder if it is up for grabs when you divorce. Here are our tips to help you figure out who gets to keep the ring.
1. No wedding, no ring. An engagement ring is a “conditional gift” meaning the gifting of the ring is only complete once a condition has been met. In the case of an engagement ring, the condition is marriage. If the wedding does not happen, the condition is not met and the gift must be returned. In New York it is extremely difficult to get around this rule but some people have tried. One way we have successfully argued this is to prove that the ring was given for something other than an engagement. For example, if the ring was a birthday present, it is not a conditional gift and therefore does not have to be returned. If you plan on arguing this, make sure you have solid proof of your claim and be prepared for an expensive fight.
2. Once you say “I do” the ring is yours. As a general rule, if the marriage happens the recipient of the engagement ring keeps it in the divorce. This is because the condition for the gift (your marriage) has been met and the gift has been completed.
3. What if the ring was purchased after the marriage? Sometimes people “upgrade” the engagement ring after they are married, or they might not have enough money to buy a ring before getting married and wait to buy a ring later. In New York, jewelry purchased after the marriage is presumed to be marital property, even if it was given as a gift. So if you buy a ring after the wedding or trade in your diamond to get something nicer, the ring likely is marital and the value can be considered in divvying up the marital pot.
4. Are family heirlooms treated differently? Yes and no. We all know someone who was given a family diamond or ring for an engagement. When a marriage fails, family members start asking when the ring will be given back. Technically this still is a conditional gift. In most circumstances the ring is returned in the event of a divorce after negotiation.
When marriages are on the rocks, people tend to stop wearing their rings. If you are in this situation make sure to put your ring in a safe place. We hear many stories about missing rings. Sometimes they are returned but that can involve an expensive fight. Give your ring to a trusted loved one or lock it up somewhere secure.
An engagement ring is just one part of a potentially complicated divorce. With other factors such as commingled bank accounts, property, and even pets or children involved, divorce can be a difficult road to travel. Greenblatt Law LLC is here to help. Contact us today if you need assistance with your divorce.