Who Keeps the Ring After Divorce?

There are many delicate matters a couple must go over during a divorce – one being, who keeps the ring? If there is a valuable engagement and/or wedding band involved in divorce settlement proceedings, you may wonder about its fate. As the recipient of the ring, you may feel it is one of your belongings, gifted to you by your fiancé with no strings attached. As the giver of the ring, you may argue that you gave the ring on the condition of marriage – a condition now broken with dissolution. Here’s what happens to the wedding ring during a divorce.

California Civil Code

California Civil Code Section 1590 states that when either party contemplating marriage makes a gift of property or money to the other on the basis that marriage will take place, the donor may recover such gift or its equivalent (in the event of the recipient selling the ring) after divorce. This law comes into effect in the event that the recipient of the ring refuses to enter into the marriage as assumed, or if both parties mutually consent to give up the marriage.

Of course, the law does not mean the donor always gets the ring back. There are stipulations. The law states that the donor may recover the gift or “such part of its value,” as a jury or court finds just under all of the circumstances of the case. This means that the courts technically have jurisdiction to order the donor to only receive part of the ring’s value, not the ring or its value in its entirety. However, since California is a no-fault divorce state, it is uncommon for the courts to split the value of the wedding or engagement ring.

California’s No-Fault Divorce Laws

California is one of few states in the U.S. that have no-fault divorce rules. This means the courts do not take into consideration the reasons for the divorce. Even if one spouse cheats on another, for example, the courts will treat the separation of property the same as if both parties had been loyal, or both had cheated. In no-fault states, the spouse requesting the divorce does not have to prove that the other did something wrong. One spouse simply has to cite “irreconcilable differences,” or that the couple cannot get along.

The California courts do not favor one party over the other, regardless of the circumstances. It does not matter which spouse does the filing. The courts will give every couple the opportunity to work out their own separation of property agreement. If couples can agree on property and debt division, it is an uncontested divorce with rather simple proceedings. The judge will sign off on the agreement and issue a final order agreeing to how you divided property between yourselves. This includes what you decide to do with the ring.

Court-Ordered Property Division

If, however, you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement about the division of property or what to do with the ring, the courts will decide for you (a contested divorce). Here is where no-fault laws differ from laws in other states. Instead of looking at both sides of the argument and listening to each spouse’s testimony, the court keeps property and debt division decisions technical. The courts use a calculation system that considers all marital and premarital assets, and divides them down the middle. Each spouse keeps 50% of the marital assets and debts.

Keep in mind, however, that the ring has its own statute in California. Regardless of the state’s no-fault laws, the donor of the ring will get to keep it after a divorce unless the courts rule otherwise. Our San Diego divorce lawyers can provide further information regarding divorce procedures and your rights during this difficult process.