Engagement and Wedding Rings - Who Gets to Keep the Bling? / by Cassandra Hearn

When purchasing an engagement ring, no spouse wants to think about what will happen to the ring if the marriage ends in a divorce. The beginning of an engagement is a happy time, and thoughts of the disintegration of the marriage is usually far from the mind of the couple. When a relationship fails, a common question is what happens to the engagement ring.

In California, an engagement ring is considered a conditional gift. This means that the gift was given based on the condition that a wedding will later take place. If the wedding never happens, the person who gave the engagement ring may request its return. However, if the one who gave the ring is responsible for the failure of the relationship, the court could decide that the recipient of the gift may keep the ring.

After marriage occurs, the condition of the gift has been fulfilled. Typically at the altar, a bride receives a wedding ring to wear in addition to the engagement ring. These pieces of jewelry are often expensive, and are an obvious symbol of the couple’s commitment. Once the marriage occurs, the engagement and wedding rings belong to the spouse wearing them. If the marriage breaks down and ends, all of the other property acquired during the marriage is divisible according to the rules of community property; however, because the engagement and wedding rings are separate property, each spouse will receive the jewelry free and clear.

There is one possible exception to this rule. If the wedding or engagement ring is a family heirloom, it may be possible for the husband to ask the court to require the ring to be returned. For example, if the husband used his great grandmother’s ring to propose to his wife, it is quite possible that a court in California would require that the wife return the ring. The reason behind this is that the law looks at the ring as an heirloom, as opposed to a gift, and will treat it accordingly.

If you are facing divorce and have questions about how property will be separated, call us today at (619) 800-0384. We have experience in helping our clients with property division in their cases.