If you are getting divorced in Lawrenceville, GA, you may wonder about the treatment of certain property, including your wedding or engagement ring. Who gets to keep the ring will depend on state law, specific circumstances about the ring, and your and your ex’s preference. Here is what to know about this complex legal question. 

Fulfilled Gift

As a cursory matter, an engagement ring is typically considered a conditional gift. It is given with the expectation of marriage. If the engagement is broken off, the recipient must usually return the ring to the giver. However, because you did get married, the condition was met, so the gift is complete.  

Georgia’s Property Division Laws

There are two general systems of dividing marital property during a divorce: community property division and equitable distribution. In community property states, the property obtained during the marriage is considered 50-50. When the couple divorces, the property must be divided equally between the spouses. This is the minority approach of states.

Most states follow equitable distribution. In these states, the court has the right to divide the property in whatever fashion it deems fair and equitable. In many cases, this could also result in a 50-50 split, but this is not automatic. Georgia is an equitable distribution state. 

What Is Marital Property?

Before the court can determine what happens to the ring or any other property, the court has to determine whether the property is marital property or separate property. This is because separate property remains with the original owner after a divorce, per Georgia law

Marital property is generally all property the couple acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on it. This could include property such as:

  • The marital home
  • An investment property
  • Vehicles
  • Furnishings
  • Financial accounts 

Therefore, if the rings were purchased during the marriage, they could be considered marital property.

What Is Separate Property?

Separate property is property that was:

  • Owned by either spouse before the marriage 
  • Obtained under the terms of a valid pre- or post-nuptial agreement
  • Obtained with the proceeds of separate property
  • Received as a gift or inheritance

Therefore, the engagement ring you received before the wedding would likely be considered separate property. 

Specific Circumstances That Can Affect the Outcome of the Case

The legal status of your rings can depend on specific circumstances, such as:

  • Your spouse gifted you the ring – A gift from one spouse to another is typically considered the recipient’s separate property. 
  • You inherited the ring – Sometimes, people choose to use a ring that was a gift or inheritance from a relative. In this situation, the ring would probably be considered separate property as long as the gift or inheritance was only to one of the spouses. 
  • You purchased the rings together – In some cases, couples decide to upgrade their rings during their marriage. They may get a new set of wedding rings. In this situation, the rings might be considered marital property and subject to division.
  • You purchased the ring for yourself – Even if you purchased the ring for yourself, this could still be considered marital property and subject the ring to equitable distribution. 

Understanding these unique nuances is one of the roles of a family law attorney. 

Court-Ordered Property Division 

If the spouses are unable to reach a settlement agreement on their own or with professional assistance, the court can decide how to divide the marital property. Georgia courts can consider various factors when determining what is a fair distribution of marital assets, including:

  • The financial status and separate assets of each spouse
  • Any alimony award
  • The future needs of each spouse
  • The debts of each spouse
  • The income and earning capacity of each spouse
  • Wrongful conduct committed by either spouse that led to a depreciation in marital assets
  • The conduct of the spouses during their marriage 

The court considers those factors that are most relevant and renders a final judgment.

For help understanding your rights, contact an experienced family lawyer.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.

You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.