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What Happens to an Engagement or Wedding Ring During a Divorce or Break Up?

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Some of the most powerful and recognizable symbols of marriage are the engagement and wedding rings. When a marriage ends, however, one question is commonly asked: "Who gets to keep the engagement and wedding rings in the divorce?"

Ownership Under California Law

Because California is a community and separate property state, wedding and engagement rings are generally considered to be separate property. In a divorce case, the court usually rules in favor of the person who received the ring, not the individual who gave the ring. This type of ruling is based on the argument that the ring was given as a gift and therefore belongs to the recipient, regardless of whether or not the relationship lasts.

If an engaged couple breaks up before their wedding, the person who gave the ring may be able to get the engagement ring back. However, the individual who gave the ring may not be able to recover it if they already wed their partner and legally consummated the marriage. The court may find that once consummation occurs, the ring has officially changed ownership and belongs to the recipient.

What if the ring is a family heirloom?

A common concern is what happens if a couple breaks up and the engagement or wedding ring is a treasured family heirloom. Fortunately for the giver of the ring, the state property laws look a little different when the matter involves a family piece of jewelry. For example, if an individual proposed with their great-grandmother's ring and they divorce their spouse twenty years later, that individual has the full right to request to take the ring back. In this type of case, the ring was not just a purchase or gift, but an heirloom, and therefore the person who gave the ring can reclaim their ownership.

Determining Value in Divided Assets

Wedding and engagement rings hold different values and meaning for each person, even in the event of a broken engagement or marriage. Some people want to keep their rings to remember that time of their lives, while others may want to sell the rings and put the past behind them. For others, after a breakup their ring may hold too many memories, so they decide to give the ring back so that they can move on.

Because an engagement or wedding ring is often worth a significant amount of money, it is important for couples separating assets to understand how the ownership of the ring could affect their divorce. Divorce can cause a lot of tension between families, and to maintain peace some individuals return their rings even if they wish they could keep them. Conversely, if the ring holds symbolic value to the receiving spouse and they believe that they have the right to keep it, they can argue their case in court.

Find out how Claery & Hammond, LLPcan help!

Whatever the case may be, dividing assets in a divorce can be difficult. With the help of a seasoned divorce attorney from Claery & Hammond, LLP, however, the process can be much less complicated. We have years of experience helping couples work through all types of divorce issues, and we would be happy to assist your family and help you get through your divorce as smoothly as possible. Contact Claery & Hammond today to discuss your situation!


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