Engagement Rings, Marriage and Divorce

Engagement Rings, Marriage and Divorce

I get asked all the time who keeps the engagement ring when parties divorce? Howard County divorces often include issues relating to engagement rings. Attorneys at SIEGELLAW can provide you with background information on this issue.

It’s actually a pretty simple question: if you give your fiancé an engagement ring and then you marry her, the ring is hers.

Of course, we can’t end this blog post here, because nothing is ever simple, is it?

An engagement ring is what is called a conditional gift. The word “gift” in the legal world has a very specific meaning. Essentially, you have to mean to give the gift for it to be called a gift.

A conditional gift is exactly what it sounds like: a gift with a condition. The condition is getting married.

So, what happens if your fiancé gives you an engagement ring, but for some reason, the two of you never marry? Your fiancé gets the ring back. You did not fulfill the single condition of keeping the ring-getting married.

Okay, so your fiancé gives you a wedding ring, the wedding is off and you sell the ring. What happens next? You owe your fiancé the value of the ring. Does that even sound right? Like it or not, it is the law.

Next scenario. You give your fiancé an engagement ring, get married and during the marriage, you re-do your rings and get a new engagement ring. Gotcha! It’s no longer the original engagement ring. It’s a new ring. So, it now sounds like marital property.

Not so fast. If you trade in your old ring to get the new ring, the value of the old ring is not marital and is yours. Let’s put some numbers to this. You trade in your old ring for $5000.00 and purchase a new ring for $7000.00. The result: $5000.00 of the new ring is not marital, but $2000.00 of the new ring is marital.

Wasn’t it a lot easier what I said at the beginning? An engagement ring is a conditional gift. Get married and it is yours. Don’t get married, and you have to give it back.

One last thing that I always tell people: I can tell you all about the law and how cases should end. It does not always end up that way, does it? Judges decide cases. Judges are attorneys. They are not experts, and they are not mathematicians. They do their best to identify the law and apply the law to the facts of your case. They might get it right. They might get it wrong. The final answer is not always what the law says it should be. The final answer is what the judge says it should be.