After a divorce, who keeps the ring?

Dividing property is usually a complicated process that involves a lot of back-and-forth negotiation. There is one piece of property that can be especially difficult to deal with: The ring. Wedding rings are more than just symbols of marriage. They are often expensive pieces of fine jewelry and a major asset for a couple.

After wearing a piece of jewelry for a long period of time--sometimes several years, and sometimes without ever taking it off--some spouses understandably feel emotionally attached to it. But the spouse who gave the ring may feel that it is rightfully theirs and wish to take it back. So, after a divorce, who gets to keep the wedding ring?

A conditional gift

New York State has its own set of legal policies when it comes to wedding rings. The state considers them conditional gifts, meaning that one spouse gives it to another on the condition that they marry. If this condition is not met, then the ring is no longer considered a gift. For example, if fiancés break their engagement or spouses decide to divorce, the condition of marriage has been broken and the ring is no longer the recipient's property.

An outright gift

There is an exception to this rule, though. If a wedding ring was given as an outright gift, then it would remain the receiver's property. Generally, a ring can be considered an outright gift if it was given during a gift-giving holiday like Christmas, Valentine's Day, a birthday or an anniversary. In this case, a court may rule that the ring was given with the intent that the recipient should keep it, permanently.

Prenuptial agreements

When it comes to dividing property, prenuptial agreements play an important role. A couple can use their prenuptial agreement to specify who keeps the ring. If a couple's prenuptial agreement specifies who gets the ring, the court will usually honor this--even if it technically goes against the state's conditional gift stipulation. It is also possible for spouses to decide the fate of the ring in private negotiations.

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