THE BLOG

Give Me My Ring Back! (Who Gets the Wedding Rings in a Divorce?)

09/23/2013 03:36 pm ET | Updated Nov 23, 2013

Divorce is the last thing on your mind when spending serious cash on a sparkly sign of DeBeers-style love. Sadly, although diamonds are a girl's best friend, many guys want to take that friend away when they decide that divorce is on the horizon.

As a divorce lawyer, I am often asked whether it is possible to get the ring back. That is especially the case when the engagement ring was purchased with multiple commas!

Unfortunately, the answer is likely no except in a few cases. The most typical exception is when you called off the wedding during the engagement -- but even then, it's no guarantee that you will get your ring back.

In California, the courts look at the engagement ring as a promise for marriage, and if the bride fulfills the promise of marriage, it is hers free and clear. If the bride never walks down the aisle, she must return the ring because she never delivered her part of the bargain.

Generally across the states, if you look at how courts address what to do with an engagement ring after a decision not to marry, there are two major rules.

First, the majority rule states that fault determines entitlement to a ring. So, men -- if you cheated during the engagement and she didn't wed, the ring is hers. Conversely, the minority rule says that fault in the breakup should not be considered. Rather, the giving of the ring is viewed as bestowing upon the donee (i.e. your future wife) a conditional gift. The condition is marriage. When that condition fails, the donor is entitled to a return of the ring (even in cases of infidelity).

Second, most other states -- such as Texas -- have upheld that an engagement ring is an absolute pre-marriage gift. Therefore, it is not subject to division because it is separate property of the wife. Sorry, guys!

However, there can be an exception in the case of family heirlooms, which are subject to discussion because of their unique quality. Even in states where engagement rings are considered pre-marriage gifts, they may be returned to the husband's family if they are family heirlooms (i.e. it was your grandparents' wedding ring and they only let your bride have it because she was getting married to you).

So before ring shopping at Tiffany's or confirming your order for a 3-carat platinum engagement ring for your darling bride, think twice. Do you have any relatives who might be willing to give you a piece of family jewelry instead? Not only could this save you if the marriage doesn't work out, but it could save you and your future wife some serious cash -- money that you can use instead for a honeymoon, a house or simply nurturing your marriage so that you don't end up walking into my office some day!

Beyond the engagement ring, other forms of jewelry and gifts can also fall under this rule. So, when she asks for an upgrade at your fifth anniversary, remember that it probably will be considered a gift -- and no, you can't have your ring back.

I am not advocating for a decrease in diamond sales. Those flashy, gorgeous baubles transform a relationship status instantly -- especially on social media!

There are also additional benefits to giving your betrothed a diamond ring. They ward off men at bars with a flash, they tell all of her coworkers and friends that you are there to stay, and they show society at large that your lady is loved and committed.

But no, there is not a direct relationship between carat weight and success in marriage. If that were true, no Hollywood starlet would ever divorce.


DISCLAIMER: None of the information you obtain in this article constitutes or is intended to be legal advice.