What happens to the engagement ring?
When it comes that time for a couple to begin the path towards marriage, the first step is the engagement ring. Depending on a person’s wealth, the ring can cost anywhere from a few months salary or less to the price of an entire house. Traditionally, an engagement ring is meant to convey to the recipient a sort of down-payment, of both affection and financial responsibility, with the balance to be paid after the wedding. Obviously with Divorce rates topping out at nearly 50% in the United States, sometimes this “down-payment” does not lead to a happily-ever-after ending. When two people call it quits and initiate Divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania, they usually enter into a process called Equitable Distribution – in which the parties divide up the marital assets before formally dissolving the marriage.
So what happens to the engagement ring? Good question, and ultimately it is both a legal and factual one. Here in Pennsylvania, the rule of thumb with an engagement ring is that it becomes an irrevocable gift after the marriage occurs. If an engagement ring is gifted but no marriage occurs, it is viewed as a conditional gift and must be returned to the gift-maker.
So if a beautiful (and expensive) engagement ring is given as part of an engagement, and the wedding does occur, but the marriage unfortunately ends in divorce, the question is: Is there any way to compensate (to some extent) the person who made the gift? The answer is yes; as part of Equitable Distribution in a Divorce, all marital property must be valued and divided. The engagement ring becomes marital property. Because attempting to cut the diamond in half would be very difficult and would likely lead to a precipitous loss in value, the value of the ring can simply be assessed and the value credited to the person who ends up keeping possession of it. Doing it this way ensures that there is no marital waste and also that both sides to a Divorce are treated fairly.
Recently, details have emerged that Jennifer Aniston and her husband Justin Theroux have separated after a two-and-one-half year marriage. During the engagement, Jennifer Aniston was given an enormous wedding ring, which was estimated to be eight carats. Although the news of their separation is somewhat recent and their divorce is far from finalized, it appears that both parties signed Prenuptial Agreements. Prenuptial Agreements are agreements entered by parties to a marriage prior to the marriage which determine certain economic rights in the event of a divorce. If there is a prenuptial agreement in a divorce, it can change the way that marital property is normally divided in Equitable Distribution. Because the details of Jennifer Aniston’s Prenuptial Agreement have yet to emerge, it is not yet clear what will happen to the diamond ring.
One thing that is clear is that the law on Divorce, Separation, and Equitable Distribution vary from state to state. It is important when going through a divorce to sit down with a knowledgeable attorney who knows the law and knows your rights. Here at LaMonaca Law, we have a team of knowledgeable and experienced attorneys who only practice Family Law – making it the place to call if you have any questions in Montgomery County, Delaware County, Chester County and beyond.