Post-Divorce: What Happens to the Wedding Rings?

When a marriage ends in divorce, one uncomfortable decision is related to what happens with the couple’s wedding rings. This can be a big deal for some people, especially if the rings were expensive or were important family heirlooms.

There are some cases on record in which courts have classified wedding rings as gifts, which means the person who gave the ring no longer has any legal entitlement to it. However, there are several factors that could go into determining who takes possession of rings:

  • Inter vivos gifts: Inter vivos is Latin for “between the living,” which refers to any type of gift made by one person to another while both are still alive. This contrasts with gifts left through a will and inheritance. Once the gift is delivered to the receiver, it is not allowed to be recovered by the person who gave it.
  • Gifts causa mortis: Causa mortis means “on the occasion of death,” and refers to any gifts made in contemplation of one’s passing. This is not, however, a gift given through a will. Rather, it is a gift given while the donor expects to die imminently. For example, if a woman’s father gives his future son-in-law a meaningful family heirloom when he expects to die, but he survives and his daughter’s marriage ultimately breaks down, he can legally recover the gift made causa mortis.
  • Conditional gifts: Some jurisdictions view engagement and wedding rings as “conditional gifts,” which mean as long as a person meets a given condition, he or she is allowed o keep the gift. If an engagement were to fall apart, for example, that condition would not have been met, which means the person who gave the ring could potentially recover it.

For more information on this and other important issues related to the dissolution of marriage, speak with a knowledgeable divorce attorney at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.

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