When a couple decides to say “I do” to one another, it is traditional for an engagement ring to be purchased for the proposal, and for wedding rings to be purchased for the actual ceremony. And rings aren’t cheap – an article in USA Today reports that the average cost of an engagement ring alone is $5,598. When combined with a wedding ring, the majority of couples are looking at expenses totaling more than $6,000 for the symbolic rings.
And so it makes sense that, in the event the marriage fails (or is called off before it even happens), couples may be wondering: Who gets to keep the rings?
If You Were Engaged…
If you were engaged, but not married, you (the recipient of the engagement ring) may be able to keep your ring depending upon the reasons for which the engagement was terminated. To be sure, the Massachusetts court concluded in De Cicco v. Barker that, “If the contract to marry is terminated without fault on the part of the donor he may be able to recover the ring.” In other words, if your fiancée, who gave you the engagement ring, was at fault for the termination of your engagement – for example, engaging in adulterous behavior – you may be able to keep the ring. If the engagement was terminated as a mutual decision, however, then you will probably have to return the engagement ring, as most courts consider rings to be conditional gifts, with the condition being that you will marry.
If You Were Married…
If you were married and have decided to divorce, however, then a different legal standard may apply. Massachusetts recognizes all property as being part of the marital estate which means that if you get divorced, your ring will likely be considered marital property, and will be subjected to equitable distribution laws. Because Massachusetts’ courts are not barred from considering things such as marital misconduct when making a decision about property division, you may be allowed to keep your ring if your spouse was at-fault for your divorce. The court may also consider other factors in distributing assets.
For many, keeping their ring when an engagement or marriage is terminated is an important issue; not only is a ring a very valuable item, but it may contain sentimental value even if the relationship is not ongoing. If you believe that you should be allowed to keep your ring during divorce – or if you believe you should be able to recover a ring that you gifted – you need to speak with an experienced divorce attorney who can provide you with more legal insights and guide you through what you need to know. At The Law Offices of Michael F. Mimno, we have more than 30 years of experience helping individuals get fair property division results in divorce. Contact us today at 978-470-4567 to schedule a consultation.