The United States lacks a uniform law regarding what is to be done with engagement rings during a divorce. While there are more expensive assets, rings can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Additionally, because of what they symbolize, they can often be points of contention during the property division process.
Since there is no set law, courts consider many different factors. They tend to look at engagement rings in one of two ways, which are as follows:
1. The ring was an absolute gift.
In these cases, the court determines that you decided to present the other person with the gift, and it then became your spouse’s possession. You gave up all rights to it at that point, and you can’t ask for it back because ownership was transferred.
2. The ring was a conditional gift.
In these cases, the court may decide that you only gave the ring as a gift with a condition, which you stated at the time when asking your spouse to marry you. If your spouse is now breaking off that marriage, you may be able to argue that the condition was broken and so the gift should go back to you; it was only to belong to your spouse as long as the marriage lasted.
Now, there are other factors and stances to be considered, such as whether or not fraud was involved—if someone said “yes” to the proposal just to take the ring, planning all along to ask for a divorce—so these cases can be complex. However, the above are the two main stances, which is where the case begins.
As you and your spouse split up property in Massachusetts, you need to know what rights you have to every type of property the two of you own.
Source: Psychology Today, “Who Should Keep the Engagement Ring After a Breakup?,” Ruth Lee Johnson, accessed March 11, 2016