Let’s talk about engagement rings, wedding rings, and prenups. According to the Knot, the average cost of an engagement ring in 2022 was about $6,000. That is not an insignificant amount, so it’s no wonder you might be wondering what happens to this ring in a divorce and how a prenup can protect you. Yes, that’s right, you can use a prenup to make sure your wedding and engagement rings are distributed how you wish in the event of a divorce. Without a prenup, your state law will apply, and you may (or may not) like that outcome. In this article, we will discuss how you can protect your wedding and engagement rings with a prenup and what happens without a prenup!
Why consider a prenup clause for your rings?
Wedding and engagement rings can hold significant financial value but also sentimental value, especially if your ring is a family heirloom. A prenup can protect the investment that you have made in your rings and ensure that they remain in your possession in case of a divorce or separation. Additionally, if you have inherited the rings or they have been passed down through your family, a prenup can help ensure that they stay within your family.
How to include your rings in a prenup
First, let’s talk about the ways you can handle rings in a prenup. Lawyers and clients can get creative, but generally, the options for distributing rings in a prenup include one of the following three:
- Each spouse is allowed to keep their rings, regardless of value or who bought them.
- Each spouse is required to either return the ring(s) or pay the other party the original value of the ring(s) upon the divorce. The value should be determined at the time of the prenup execution.
- Stay silent on the issue and let the state laws apply.
Considerations for rings in your prenup
Not sure where to start? We’ve got your back. There are some things to consider when making this determination regarding rings in your prenup, such as the value of the ring and how it should be distributed.
How much is it worth? You and/or your partner probably know the original price of the ring, but if you don’t, it’s important to determine the ring’s value. You can have them appraised by a professional to determine their current market value. This will ensure that they are included in the prenup at their current value. This part is especially important if you and your future spouse are choosing to pay back one another for the original price of the rings.
Distribution in case of separation or divorce
In the event of a divorce, it’s important to determine how the rings will be distributed. Should the rings be kept by each person wearing the ring? Or should it be returned? Or maybe the recipient wants to keep the ring but simply pay back the purchaser the original price. You can include provisions that state that the rings remain in possession of their owner or that the rings are to be returned, or the value is to be repaid to the purchaser.
What happens to rings without a prenup in a divorce?
This is dependent on the state law which applies to your divorce case. Some states consider engagement rings and wedding rings to be separate property gifts and not marital/community property (i.e., NOT subject to division in a divorce). Other states do consider engagement rings and wedding rings to be considered marital/community property, subject to division in a divorce.
For example, a court in Florida dealt with the issue of wedding and engagement rings recently in 2019 when it declared that wedding and engagement rings are to be considered non-marital assets (i.e., not divisible in a divorce). However, in the case at hand, a third marital ring purchased after the wedding took place (but was added onto the same finger as the wedding and engagement rings) was considered marital property, subject to division upon divorce. The bottom line? Not all jewelry gifts are created equal, and in Florida, wedding and engagement rings (without a prenup) are considered separate property, not divisible in a divorce.
In California, there is a statute that talks about gifts in contemplation of marriage (i.e., this includes engagement and wedding rings because they’re given with the intent of getting married eventually). If the marriage is called off before the wedding takes place, then the person who bought the rings may get it back (or the value back). If the wedding does take place and then there is a divorce down the line, the rings are usually considered the separate property of the person who received the ring.
Massachusetts is one of the states that actually considers engagement rings and wedding rings to be marital property, i.e., divisible in a divorce. This means that the rings are to be considered joint property that should be divided up in the divorce settlement. However, if the marriage never took place, then the rings should go back to the purchaser. The rings only become marital property when the wedding takes place.
According to New York family law attorney Lisa Zeiderman, “Engagement rings are definitely considered separate property in a divorce in New York (provided that they were given before the marriage)!”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about engagement and wedding rings
Q: What if we call off the engagement before getting married? What happens to the ring?
A: Many states will consider this an “incomplete” gift, meaning that the gift was given in contemplation of marriage, but the marriage never happened, so it should go back to the purchaser. However, this could vary from state to state, so it’s important to check in on your state’s laws regarding this issue.
Q: How does a prenup protect an engagement and wedding ring?
A: State laws vary, but engagement and wedding rings are often categorized as gifts and kept as the separate property of the recipient. If this is not to your liking, then a prenup can ensure that the purchaser either receives the ring back upon divorce or the recipient keeps the ring but pays the purchaser the original amount of the ring upon divorce.
The bottom line is a prenup can ensure your engagement and wedding rings are distributed exactly how you want them to be in the event of a divorce. Rings hold significant financial and emotional value, so make sure to discuss how you want to handle this with your future partner and make a decision for your prenup that works for the two of you.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]