Is your engagement ring a marital asset in divorce?

When you determine that your marital relationship is no longer sustainable, the decision may spark a series of additional choices and decisions that create major changes in your life. If you file for divorce in a New York court, for instance, you and your spouse must resolve numerous issues, especially if you are parents, before you can achieve a fair settlement.  

While there are several categories of topics that you will likely address during divorce proceedings, property division is one that often ignites contention between spouses, especially if you and your ex don’t get along well to start. One issue that many spouses in the past have contended with pertains to an engagement ring. Who owns it? Is it a marital asset, and will you have to give it back?  

Why your wedding ring and engagement ring are in separate legal categories 

Because your wedding ring is something that you received during your marriage ceremony, it is typically marital property. It is an interspousal gift. On the other hand, you were likely given your engagement ring before you got married. From a legal perspective, this makes your engagement ring separately owned property that is not subject to division in a divorce.  

Prenuptial agreements or contingencies may apply 

As with most legal issues, there may be exceptions to the rule that a gift received prior to marriage is separately owned property in a divorce. Perhaps your partner asked for your hand in marriage by giving you a family heirloom as an engagement ring.  

You may have agreed to sign a prenuptial contract stating that you would return the ring if your marriage were ever to end in divorce. This is one of many reasons it’s important to make sure you clearly understand and agree to the terms of a prenuptial contract before signing one.  

Deciding what to do with your engagement ring when you divorce 

You might decide that you’d rather just give your engagement ring back to your ex when you divorce. Then again, you might be the type of person who wants to keep your ring to serve as a reminder of something special that you shared with your former spouse, although things might not have worked out the way you’d hoped.  

You might also decide to sell your ring and use the money to pay bills or to splurge on a gift to yourself as you leave the past behind and begin a new lifestyle.