Marriage proposals are deeply powerful and personal promises. Although they are an expression of love and a pledge of commitment, the gesture is not only emotional in nature, especially when it is accompanied by the time-honored tradition of an engagement ring. That ring, separate from its emotional significance, can also be a major investment.
Unfortunately, even the most meaningful promises and plans don’t always pan out – including marriage. While couples who decide to end an engagement before tying the knot may have any number of unique issues to address, they often have questions about the fate of their engagement ring. This may also be a question raised by spouses who do finalize a marriage, only to later file for divorce.
If you are in such a situation, determining what happens to your engagement ring is a matter that requires a review of the particular facts and circumstances surrounding your case, as well as an understanding of Florida law. At Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC, our Boca Raton attorneys have extensive experience guiding clients through a range of divorce and family law cases, and can help you understand your rights and options when it comes to the engagement ring.
Conditional and Irrevocable Gifts
The fate of the engagement ring depends on several important factors, including whether or not it is considered a “conditional” or “irrevocable” gift. These terms are fairly straightforward
- Conditional gift – A conditional gift is one where conditions or stipulations are attached to the gift, making the gift itself revocable, or subject to return to the giver, if the conditions are not met. Florida courts generally consider engagement rings to be conditional gifts, as they are contingent on marriage.
- Irrevocable gift – An irrevocable gift is that which cannot be taken back by the person who gifted it. This can be either the result of a gift not being subject to any condition or event (think socks gifted as a Christmas present), or as the result of the condition being met when a conditional gift is given.
When the Marriage Doesn’t Happen
For one reason or another, not every engagement pans out. In fact, estimates suggest that as many as 20 percent of all engagements in the United States are called off before marriage. This situation can create some challenges when there are disputes or disagreements over who owns the engagement ring.
As mentioned above, Florida family courts have commonly held that engagement rings are conditional gifts, meaning they are gifted with the condition of a couple getting legally marriage. If a marriage does not happen, then, an engagement ring will likely be returned to the party who gifted it. There may be some exceptions to this or some opportunities for raising valid arguments as to the contrary, however. This is particularly true in situations where couples have prenuptial agreements outlining what should happen to the engagement ring in the event that marriage doesn’t happen, or when the person who gifted the engagement ring is the party solely responsible for ending the relationship prior to marriage.
When Spouses Divorce
When an engaged couple completes their goal of getting legally married, a divorce can also raise questions as to who keeps the engagement ring. In most cases, engagement rings become the irrevocable property of the person who received it, as the condition of marriage has been met.
There may be other alternatives to this general rule, however, including situations where prenuptial or postnuptial agreements state what should happen to the ring. There is also opportunity for both spouses to negotiate amongst themselves to determine who should get the ring, especially if a ring holds some sort of added significance for the person who gave it (such as being a family heirloom). In such a scenario, some gifting spouses may negotiate property division agreements for the return of a ring by awarding the recipient of the ring with other assets in exchange.
Discuss Your Case & Rights with Experienced Attorneys
Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC is committed to helping clients across Boca Raton and the surrounding areas of Florida understand and protect their rights in all types of divorce and family law cases. If you have questions about an engagement ring, a case involving divorce and property division, or any other family law matter, our award-winning team is here to help. Contact us to speak with a proven attorney during an initial consultation.