Rights to an Engagement Ring Upon Divorce

New York Equitable Distribution Law

When a couple gets a divorce, all marital property will be apportioned between spouses according to New York’s equitable distribution laws. Under principles of equitable distribution, all property that a couple acquired during their marriage qualifies as marital property subject to equitable distribution upon dissolution of their marriage. Any property that a spouse acquired before getting married, after divorce, and through inheritance, while married, is considered to be the separate nonmarital property of the acquiring spouse.

When characterizing property for purposes of equitable distribution upon divorce, courts will look at the marital status of the parties at the time a particular asset was acquired. However, engagement rings are customarily purchased by one spouse and gifted to the other before getting married. Therefore, under New York’s rules governing the equitable distribution of marital property, an engagement ring does not qualify as marital property that is subject to apportionment proceedings in a divorce case.

Rights to Engagement Rings in Broken Engagements

When a person buys an engagement ring as a proposal for entering into a marriage, the purchaser ordinarily does with the intention that their fiancé will have exclusive use of the ring. The purchaser will usually direct a jeweler to custom-craft the ring with the fiance’s finger size in mind. These facts suggest that the purchaser did not intend anyone but their fiancé to possess and use the engagement ring.

In the event of a broken engagement, New York law on equitable distribution clearly does not apply because the couple never entered into a legal marriage. But, is an engagement ring still considered the property of the recipient?

Some courts have held that an engagement ring is a conditional gift and that the recipient’s ownership rights only vest upon marrying the purchaser. As a result, the recipient does not have ownership rights to an engagement ring if the condition of marriage was never satisfied. Therefore, the purchaser may reclaim the engagement ring in a broken engagement scenario.

Contact the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C.for Legal Representation

If you need quality legal advice for a matter concerning New York domestic relations or matrimonial law, you should consult an experienced attorney from the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. You can benefit from the skilled legal counsel and advocacy that Attorney Hagler offers for cases involving family law issues, such as property division upon divorce.

To schedule an appointment with Attorney Hagler, call (516) 514-3868 or contact his office online.