Marriage and divorce, whether for heterosexual couples or same-sex couples, present a number of challenges and pitfalls to overcome. When it comes to same sex family law, what happens when a couple breaks off their engagement? What happens when they want to end their marriage? How the wedding rings are dealt with depends on when the couple decides to part ways, and under what circumstances their marriage ends.
Engagement Rings Before the Wedding
An engagement ring is a powerful symbol of a deep commitment to any relationship. It is a promise agreed upon by both prospective spouses that they will get married. The question is, what happens to engagement rings if the wedding never happens? More specifically, what if the wedding is canceled before it can occur? Various elements of state law have defined the answers to this question:
Engagement Rings as Gifts: Most states view engagement rings as gifts. Not only that, they are seen as conditional gifts. What does this mean? The ring is given based on the promise of a future marriage or similar event. It does not only have to be a wedding. That said, if the future event never takes place, the original giver is entitled to take the ring back. A Virginia Supreme Court decision from 1941 held If the person receiving the ring does not fulfill the promise the ring represents, the ring itself returns to the giver. If the ring (or other similar gift) cannot be recovered, the value of the gift is restored instead.
The Hart Balm Act: In 1968, another law was passed. This law, known as the Hart Balm Act, prohibits formerly affianced individuals to sue each other. More specifically, the one who gives the proposal can’t sue over the engagement being ended.
After the Wedding
After the wedding has happened, typical divorce procedures determine what happens to the marital property, such as it was. After the spouses have exchanged their vows, the ring changes ownership from the giver to the receiver; it becomes the separate property of the individual who did not hold it before.
What Becomes of the Rings?
A wedding signifies the beginning of many things. In essence, a marriage is a joint venture between two individuals, so it would stand to reason that all of their assets and belongings become mutual property. Certain parts of the Virginia Code Section 20-107.3 define rings as mutual property once the wedding has taken place. This particular section of the Virginia Code applies even before the prospective spouses are proclaimed as married.
More Factors Involved in Same Sex Family Law
Several more factors are involved in same sex family law when it comes to the rings. These typically also apply to the rings belonging to heterosexual couples as well:
- Was the ring an heirloom?
- Did post-marital assets affect the value of the ring? As noted above, after a wedding occurs, rings become part of what is known as post-marital property.
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