Who keeps the engagement ring in a divorce?
Call it cold feet, a change of heart, or in some cases, the seven-year itch. Whatever the situation, time has shown that engagements don’t always result in the happily-ever-after that was promised on a bended knee. One of the biggest battles arising from a broken engagement or a divorce revolves around a relatively small item – the engagement ring. So who gets the engagement ring in a divorce?
Is an engagement ring a marital asset?
It’s a dispute as old as time that still manages to make headlines. Recently, Paris Hilton announced the end of her engagement – and that she was keeping her whopping 20-karat, $2 million dollar engagement ring. Turns out, the ring designer gave Hilton the ring for free in exchange for social media exposure so her ex doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Things may turn out differently, however, for Wyatt Koch, son of billionaire William Koch. He sued his ex-fiance last year claiming he had a right to the 8.24 carat cushion cut diamond he gave his once beloved since it was a conditional gift. Only time will tell who ends up with the $180,000 gem, but in the meantime, read below to see how Texas would likely handle an engagement ring at any stage of a relationship.
What if the engagement is broken off?
An engagement ring is a gift, right? Well, a closer look may, in fact, indicate otherwise. Typically, a gift requires three elements to be considered an irrevocable gift. There must be intent, where the giver intended the item to be a gift; delivery, which constitutes the actual giving of the gift to the recipient; and acceptance, an affirmative acceptance of the gift by the recipient. Engagement rings usually have intent, delivery, and acceptance, so you would think it operates just as any other irrevocable gift would under the law. However, when it comes to engagement rings, Texas, like most states, has carved out an exception to the overarching gift concept in the form of conditional gifts.
Simply put, a conditional gift is a gift given with the understanding that a future action – a condition – will be met. If the condition on which the gift was given is not met, then the gift giver has the right to get the gift back. When it comes to engagement rings, most courts have determined that the condition on which the ring was given is that a marriage occur. When engagements are broken-off, the marriage condition is not met, making the ring fair game to be returned to the ring-giver.
You may be sitting there with a ring on your finger saying to yourself, “But he broke off the engagement – it’s his fault!” In some Texas courts, this argument may prevail. Over time, courts have looked at who was at fault in the breaking of an engagement when determining who had the legal right to an engagement ring. Some courts have ruled that the receiver of the ring can keep the ring when the giver of the ring was “at fault” in breaking the engagement. However, courts will also look at why the engagement was broken off. If either party can provide evidence that they broke off the engagement because of infidelity or fraud, there is a good chance the innocent party will have the right to the ring.
Who gets the engagement ring during a divorce?
The above discussion begs the question – Does the outcome change once you’ve said, “I Do?” Exchanging vows and following through with the marriage fulfills the condition on which the ring was given. As such, the ring becomes the property of the receiver and is no longer revocable.
Are you considering a divorce and concerned about the division of property and gifts? If so, call us at (817) 900-3220.