Who Keeps The Engagement Ring When A Couple Breaks Up?
Most people have a certain story running in their mind of how they imagine their life will play out. Details may remain fuzzy and are subject to change, but everyone has a dream they are hoping for in the future. If that dream involves a life partner – as many do – the usual fairytale version likely involves falling madly in love, a proposal, and living happily ever after. The engagement ring is often a key, often-romanticized piece of that vision. It is also, usually, fairly costly. Bringing a valuable asset into the mix of a relationship changes the stakes. A potential breakup would no longer just involve emotional fallout – whoever retains ownership of the ring has a, potentially, very valuable asset.
So, what does Tennessee law have to say about who keeps an engagement ring when a couple splits up?
The history of engagement rings themselves goes way back to when similar rings were worn more as a sign of ownership. While this is rather unromantic, through time the ring came to be more associated with a man’s intention to marry, and eventually grew to be the romantic gesture lauded today. As you can see, the engagement ring has always been associated with a relationship or marriage agreement between the offeror and the wearer.
Today, like most states in the U.S., Tennessee law recognizes engagement rings as a conditional gift. Just as the general public views the ring as a signal that a marriage agreement has been made between the couple, the court will also treat the ring as though marriage is an implied condition of having the ring. Therefore, if the marriage takes place then the partner who was gifted the engagement ring will usually be able to retain it. If the marriage does not take place, then a condition of ownership has not been met and the ring would typically need to be returned to the partner who brought the ring into the relationship.
There is an exception to the above rule that you should be very wary of – if you give someone an engagement ring on Christmas, or valentines day, or some other very special occasion, then there is an argument to be made that the ring was not a gift conditioned on marriage, but was a gift given in recognition of another event, such as a birthday present.
An engagement ring is likely a valuable asset. Generally speaking, in a divorce the couple will equally split the marital assets. However, a court will probably not recognize the ring as being marital property subject to this split. An individual is usually entitled to retain an asset that belonged to them prior to the marriage. In Tennessee, engagement rings are usually considered to be separate, pre-marital property of the spouse who received the ring. As a conditional gift, the ring was given prior to marriage. The condition of the gift was met by the act of marriage. Therefore, in the event of a divorce the recipient of the ring will likely retain ownership.
Contact Fort, Holloway & Rogers LLC
The dissolution of a relationship is never easy. The skilled Franklin property division lawyers at Fort, Holloway & Rogers LLC know how to successfully guide our clients through even the most complicated issues facing divorcees today. Contact our office today to speak with one of our skilled attorneys about your situation.