Woman Holding Her Wedding Ring After a DivorceBesides acting as a symbol of your relationship, an engagement or wedding ring can represent a significant financial investment. You may want to sell it if you are struggling financially after a breakup. When you add in emotional considerations, like a desire to see an heirloom pass through generations of a family, it’s not surprising there may be a dispute about who gets the ring after a divorce. Exactly who is allowed to keep the ring when a romantic relationship ends depends on both how and when it was given as our Brooklyn divorce attorney explains.

Determining Who the Ring Belongs to After a NY Divorce

It isn’t uncommon for emotions to run high during a divorce. One party may feel they were wronged and deserve to keep more of the assets in a divorce, like an expensive ring. Although you may have completely valid reasons for ending the marriage, the bad behavior of your soon-to-be ex isn’t a consideration in a dispute over the wedding or engagement ring.

Fault for the divorce simply isn’t a factor in this particular situation, even if the other person was cheating, abusive, or neglected the children. Instead, dividing up property like wedding rings is a strictly legal concern, and there are clear rules on how the situation should be handled when a marriage dissolves.

Here’s what you need to know about whether the wedding ring belongs to you or the other party:

  • In most cases, an engagement ring is considered a conditional gift. It’s given with the assumption you will marry. After the marriage certificate is signed and the ceremony completed, the ring officially belongs to the recipient. 
  • If the condition of marriage isn’t met, the ring no longer legally belongs to the recipient. It should be returned if the marriage is called off before the wedding occurs.
  • Instead of a conditional gift, a ring is considered a true gift if it was handed over voluntarily during some normal gift-giving occasion, like a birthday or Christmas celebration. It belongs to the recipient fully, even if the relationship ends before marriage.
  • If the ring was a family heirloom, rather than something bought new for this particular proposal, the court may rule that it counts as an inheritance. In that case, a judge could decide the ring must be returned.
  • There can be one additional snag in determining who owns the property if the ring was changed in some way during the course of the marriage. Adding new stones, upgrading the settings, replacing the band, and so on can have a bigger impact than you expect. If the value of the ring increased in any way through the contributions of a spouse, it becomes marital property and is no longer solely the property of one single person. 

To avoid further problems during your divorce, it’s important to determine who this crucial piece of the marriage actually belongs to before doing anything with the ring. If it legally belongs to you as separate property because the condition of marriage was met, you are free to sell the asset for the financial help, keep it to re-use at a later time, or even give it away.

Of course, the ring is just one in a long line of potential sticking points during a divorce. It’s all-too-easy for the situation to get messy quickly if you don’t have a neutral third party to help with negotiations. That’s why you need to talk with an experienced attorney early in the process. A lawyer with experience in New York divorce cases can help ensure your legal rights are protected while dividing up assets that may have sentimental or financial value, from family heirlooms to the house and car.

Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection