White Plains Divorce Lawyers Explain
The question of who gets to keep the engagement ring in a
divorce tends to be a question asked very often by the divorce clients of our
firm, Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP, located in White Plains, New York.
This is in large part due to the fact that it is not generally a question
that is asked until a spouse is either contemplating a divorce or is in
the process of getting divorced.
Unfortunately, the law does not provide a clear cut answer. In fact, there
are currently two opposing theories of law regarding engagement rings
in New York and the issue often turns on the specific opinion of a divorce
trial judge and sometimes depends upon the county in which you are seeking
to obtain a New York divorce.
Engagement Rings in a Westchester County Divorce and 9
th Judicial District
In the Ninth Judicial District of New York, which includes Westchester
County, as well as Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland and Orange Counties, the
generally accepted prevailing law on the issue is that an engagement ring
is considered "marital property". Marital property is any property
acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This is where some confusion
comes in because people generally believe that the engagement ring is
before the marriage.
In New York, an engagement ring is given to the other spouse as a "conditional
gift", that is a gift given on the condition that there will be a
marriage. As a consequence, the person who receives the ring only has the
right of possession until the marriage occurs. If the marriage does not occur then the engagement
ring is the property of the person who gave the ring. Since title to the
ring does not vest until there is a marriage, title to the ring is thus
acquired during the marriage. Accordingly, since it was property acquired
during the marriage, the engagement ring is considered marital property
and thus subject to New York's
Equitable Distribution Laws. This law requires the court to "equitably", or fairly, distribute
the marital property to the spouses in light of the particular circumstances
of each divorce.
Thus, if the spouses cannot come to an agreement on what happens to the
engagement ring, i.e. one spouse gets to keep it or it is sold and the
proceeds divided, then the divorce trial court judge will decide what
happens to the ring pursuant to the Equitable Distribution laws.
Engagement Rings Outside of Westchester County and the 9
th Judicial District
While the trial judges in divorce courts outside of Westchester County
and the Ninth Judicial District are free to rely on the law as discussed
above, and they sometimes do, there is an opposing theory of law that
has existed for several decades. While this theory also follows the law
of the engagement rings being a "conditional gift" as discussed
above, once a marriage occurs the engagement ring is not considered "marital
property". Instead, it is considered the "separate property"
of the recipient spouse and by reason of this fact, the engagement ring
is not subject to Equitable Distribution and will remain the sole and
exclusive property of the recipient spouse. The reasoning behind this
is that the conditional nature of the gift becomes moot when the marriage
occurs and thus unconditionally becomes the property of the recipient
spouse upon marriage.
The bottom line is that no matter where your divorce is pending in New
York, a divorce trial court judge is free to rely upon either theory of
law when deciding who gets to keep the engagement ring. However, in a
Westchester County divorce it is very likely that a divorce trial judge
will apply the theory of law that the engagement ring is marital property
and subject to Equitable Distribution. In this instance, the engagement
rings gets put into the "pot" with the rest of the spouses'
marital property and will be divided "equitably" between the
spouses as the divorce trial judge deems proper under the specific facts
of each divorce.
Engagement Rings and the Necessity of a White Plains Divorce Lawyer
As is plain to see from above, the question of who gets to keep the engagement
ring in a Westchester County Divorce can depend entirely upon the specific
position of the divorce trial court judge. This why you should consult
a skilled and experienced White Plains divorce lawyer who is familiar
with the Westchester County Divorce Court and the law regarding engagement
rings so that your position may be presented to the judge in the most
legally articulate manner possible. We encourage you to call one of our
skilled and experienced White Plains Divorce Lawyers for a
FREE CONSULTATION regarding this issue. You may contact us
online or by calling us at (914) 840-5104