When couples get divorced sometimes the question of who gets the engagement and wedding rings comes up. These rings often represent significant monetary and/or sentimental value, so it's understandable the giver may want the recipient to return these items, especially if the marriage didn't last very long. If you and your spouse are parting ways and you want to get the person's wedding set back, here's what you need to know about how the law handles this type of situation and a few tips on convincing your soon-to-be ex-spouse to return the jewelry.
How the Court Views Ownership of Engagement and Wedding Rings
The court's view on who owns engagement and wedding rings depends on when the items were given and when the couple decided to separate. Specifically, an engagement ring is considered a conditional gift. It is given to the receiver with the condition the person will not take full ownership of it until the couple gets married. In general, if the couple splits before the marriage takes place, then the recipient is obligated to return the ring to the giver.
However, once the couple marries, the engagement and wedding bands are considered gifts from one spouse to another in the eyes of the court. As such, these items are treated like separate property that belongs solely to the receiving spouse. Therefore, the court will typically let each spouse keep their rings and deny requests by either spouse to be awarded the rings belonging to the other person.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are a couple of cases where the courts may consider asking one spouse to return his or her engagement and wedding rings to the giver. The first exception concerns heirloom jewelry. If the engagement or wedding band are family heirlooms and the giver can prove it, then the court may order the recipient spouse to return the item to the giver. For instance, in the case of Duncan v. Duncan, the Tennessee Appeals Court ordered the husband to return two rings to his ex-wife because they had belonged to the ex-wife's father and had significant sentimental value to her.
Another exception is if, during the marriage, the nature or value of the rings changes. For instance, if the recipient uses community funds to upgrade the rings, the court may decide that action makes the ring community property and award both parties an interest in the jewelry. For example, in the case of Price v. Price, the court considered the engagement ring to be hybrid property because the ring was upgraded using stones from another ring given during the marriage.
Getting the Ring Back
There are a few things you can do to get engagement and wedding rings back from your ex-spouse. If you and your spouse are on good terms (or at least you don't absolutely hate each other), you can appeal to their sense of fairness. This probably will only work if the ring is a family heirloom. However, if you can get your spouse to see how much the ring means to you or the family member it originally belonged to, then the person may be willing to simply give it back.
More likely than not, however, you will probably have to bribe your ex-spouse to give the ring back. You can offer to give the person money or other valuable assets in exchange for the ring. For instance, if the ring appraises at $5,000 and your ex-spouse wants the family vehicle that's valued at $10,000, you can offer to relinquish your share of the vehicle in exchange for return of the ring.
A third option is to prove to the court that the ring is actually community property rather than separate property. As mentioned before, if the rings were improved using comingled funds, the court may reclassify them as marital property and then make a decision about who gets the ring based on that and other factors, such as who has the greater sentimental attachment to the rings.
For more ideas on getting an ex-spouse to return an engagement and wedding set or assistance with litigating a divorce case, contact a divorce attorney (like those at http://www.jeffdragonlaw.com).Share
15 October 2015
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