Engagement and wedding rings in Arizona
Can you keep them, or do you have to give them back?
From time to time, prospective and current divorce clients ask whether they can keep engagement rings, wedding bands, wraps, or jackets. Conversely, some clients ask whether they can give back the ones they received and get back the ones they gave.
In most jurisdictions and cases, the answer is clear: Keep it. Or sell it. Or give it away. It’s a gift. You can do with it what you want.
No matter when received, gifts do not have to be returned. It does not matter whether the wedding was called off or you were married for decades. Depending on where you live, there are exceptions to the premarital guarantee, such as situations in which the bride-to-be called off the wedding or the groom cheated. But this is not the law in Arizona. In this state, pretty much anything legally owned before marriage—whether received by gift or not—is yours and yours alone.
The same thing applies to items given to and by bridesmaids, groomsmen, and/or friends or extended family. The number and value of these gifts may depend on the families’ cultural or religious backgrounds. For example, some Asian Indian weddings involve extensive, expensive gift-giving between the two joining families.
The parties may agree that the rings or other valuables will be returned to their givers, especially if one or more of the items is a family heirloom. Because the value of the wife’s ring or rings often is much higher than that of the husband’s, the husband may be ordered to compensate the wife a reasonable amount for the value of the item she is losing. The court usually upholds this. If the parties cannot agree, the default is that the rings stay with the recipients.
Sometimes the owner no longer wears a ring or rings for reasons such as job safety, the end of the romantic relationship, pregnancy bloating, or weight gain. What if the ring or rings suddenly go missing? What if the owner further suspects his or her soon-to-be ex pawned them for cash for the diamonds and precious metals they contain? In this situation, the court may award the bereft party a specific amount of monetary compensation for the value of the item or items.
Recordkeeping and valuation
If need be, the rings can be described specifically in a divorce decree and confirmed to the recipient as his or her sole and separate personal property post-dissolution. This is why it is always a good idea to keep detailed records of all jewelry and other high-dollar valuables—including photos and all purchase and insurance policy documents—and store these records among important papers in a fireproof safe-deposit box.
A qualified appraiser can examine a ring or other valuable, and determine the approximate fair-market value based on its age, materials, quality, and condition.
Legal questions concerning valuables such as engagement or wedding rings can be complicated. If you are in doubt, consult with an experienced Arizona family law attorney.