Experienced, Compassionate and Effective Advocacy

Can you demand an heirloom engagement ring back in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2024 | Divorce

Depending upon where you live, a broken engagement may or may not require your intended to return their engagement ring upon demand. It all depends on whether state law considers the ring to be a conditional gift or not.

What happens, however, to a family heirloom ring if you actually get married only to have the relationship come apart a year, five years or a decade later? 

Once the marriage was completed, all conditions were met

Virginia falls among the states that consider engagement rings to be conditional gifts, but the condition is the promise to marry – not the promise to stay married. That doesn’t give you any legal standing to demand the return of your family heirloom. 

The best way to approach this situation is through pre-planning. While a prenuptial agreement never sounds particularly romantic, you can use one to address just these kinds of situations. If you’re concerned about what might happen to your grandmother’s ring, for example, you can put a formal agreement about the issue in your prenup.

But, what if it’s too late? If you’re already in the midst of a divorce, you need to think about other strategies to get what you want. You might:

  • Appeal to your spouse’s sense of fair play. This only works, of course, if your spouse is willing to be reasonable. In that situation, you can offer to have the ring appraised for its replacement value and pay your spouse for its return.
  • See if your spouse is willing to pass it on to your child. If you and your spouse have children together, you may be able to convince your spouse to pass the ring to one of your children, like your oldest daughter. That way, the ring stays within the family, even if it isn’t directly returned.
  • Use something else as a bargaining chip. Depending on how much the ring is worth to you (aside from its financial value), you may be able to leverage something else your spouse wants in exchange. 

Issues like these can throw otherwise fairly friendly divorces into chaos, which is why it’s so important to take a strategic approach to the division of property.