The important distinction between wedding and engagement rings is that the engagement ring is considered a gift that occurs before the marriage whereas the wedding rings are viewed as gifts during the marriage.
Division of assets and liabilities in a divorce are governed by Florida’s equitable distribution laws. Under equitable distribution, assets must first be characterized as marital or non-marital. Non-marital assets are set aside and not subject to equitable distribution between the parties. Assets and liabilities that are determined to be marital are part of the marital estate and must be equitably distributed by the court.
Gifts made from one spouse to the other during the marriage are addressed in the Florida dissolution of marriage statute. It says that an interspousal gift, that is a gift from one spouse to the other during the marriage, is a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Due to the fact that the wedding rings are exchanged during the wedding ceremony, they are considered interspousal gifts and thus marital assets. Upon dissolution of the marriage, each spouse would each receive one half the value of both rings.
Because the engagement ring is a gift from one prospective spouse to the other prior to the marriage, it is considered a pre-marital or non-marital asset. Courts have ruled that engagement rings are conditional gifts, typically made by the husband-to-be to his fiancee. If the parties marry, then “the condition has been met,” and it becomes a “completed gift.” Therefore, the wife gets to keep the engagement ring as it is her non-marital property.
As an aside, if the lovely couple do not marry, then the fiancee should return the engagement ring as it was not a completed gift. If the value justifies it, a lawsuit may be filed against a former fiancee for replevin to force the return of the engagement ring. If the ring has been sold or has “disappeared,” money damages equal to the value of the ring may be sought. Hopefully, it never comes to that.
If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities relating to the dissolution of your marriage or if you want to discuss those issues before you get married, please write me here or call my office at (386) 257-1222