Who Gets The Engagement & Wedding Rings In A Divorce?

Who Gets The Engagement & Wedding Rings In A Divorce?

by Apr 27, 2021Divorce, Family Law

In a divorce, couples understand that their community property is going to get divided by agreement or a trial. Sometimes in a short marriage, the wife’s engagement ring can be one of the most valuable assets. It can also have a great amount of sentimental value, especially if it has been handed down from a parent or grandparent or has been in the husband’s family for generations.

In those cases, either party may place a high value on either the wedding and/or engagement rings and be willing to make considerable concessions when it comes to dividing community property and debts in order to get them back.

So, the question is: Who gets to keep the engagement and wedding rings after the divorce?
 

Before Marriage

An engagement ring is a ring given or exchanged between the parties, before the marriage, in exchange for a promise or expectation of actually getting married. In California, engagement rings are not considered under the rule of gifting and are specifically dealt with by statute:

Where either party to a contemplated marriage in this State makes a gift of money or property to the other on the basis or assumption that the marriage will take place, in the event that the donee refuses to enter into the marriage as contemplated or that it is given up by mutual consent, the donor may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just.

California Civil Code section 1590

In short, if a couple gets married, the engagement ring belongs to the spouse that received it before the marriage. If the marriage doesn’t take place, the engagement rings have to be returned to the giver.

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During Marriage And After Divorce

Wedding bands purchased before the wedding day and given at the ceremony are the property of the buyer until the wedding. The spouses aren’t married and their money is separate. At the wedding each buying spouse gives (transfers) a wedding band to the other spouse voluntarily.

While the treatment of the original wedding bands as gifts isn’t addressed by statute and the law in California is not settled, in most cases the receiving spouse gets to keep the wedding band.

Rings and jewelry purchased during the marriage and given by one spouse to the other as a Christmas gift, anniversary gift, renewal of vows, etc.–are usually considered a gift from one spouse to the other. However, if the monetary value of the rings and/or jewelry are substantial, they may be considered as part of the couple’s total assets in the event of a divorce.
 

Community Vs Separate Property

In summary, engagement and wedding rings are considered the separate property of the receiving spouse. Rings and other jewelry purchased during the marriage are also considered the separate property of the receiving spouse, except if the value of the gift(s) is substantial when taking into account all of the assets and income of the married couple during the marriage.

Determining what is community property and separate property can be complicated and difficult to value and divide. It is, therefore, important to discuss your unique situation with an attorney that has a firm grasp of family law. At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we can help you obtain a fair division of property during a divorce.

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