What happens to the engagement ring in a divorce?

Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada LLP

When most couples become engaged, there is often the giving and receiving of a ring to seal the promise. It is usually a man who presents the ring to his intended wife, but what if somewhere down the line a California couple ends up in divorce court? What happens to the ring? The answer isn’t so straightforward.

The best case scenario is when the two people involved can agree on the future of the ring, but if that’s not possible and the law has to step in, the outcome can vary depending upon the state where the couple resides. The decision has to be made whether to consider the ring marital or separate property. In California, for example, family court judges have been leaning toward ruling in favor of an engagement ring being considered separate property, so once the couple does get married, the ring is seen as being the property of the bride.

There may be extenuating circumstances, however. For instance, if the ring is a family heirloom of the groom, it may be considered to be an inheritance and considered as separate from marital assets and so ordered to be returned to the groom’s family. That being said, the bride may still have a claim to its apportioned value.

In some cases, there is no clear cut answer to the engagement ring question. Each spouse would likely benefit from seeking advice from a California attorney experienced in family law issues like divorce. A lawyer may be able to offer some definitive advice based on a client’s personal circumstance.

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