Who Gets the Wedding Ring in a Divorce?

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It’s a familiar scene: a man gets down on one knee, opens a small box containing a very expensive piece of jewelry, and proposes to the woman of his dreams. She graciously accepts, he puts the ring on her finger, they kiss and live happily ever after… well, at least that’s how it happens in the movies. Unfortunately, in the real world, not everyone lives this “fairy tale.”

When things go awry, especially after a short term marriage, people often wonder, “who gets the wedding ring in a divorce?”

According to TheKnot.com, the average cost of an engagement ring is $5,431. This is a considerable amount of money; oftentimes more than one’s monthly salary. Understandably, it provokes the discussion of who gets the wedding ring in a divorce.

Is the ring considered marital property? Does the wife automatically get to keep it? Will it be used as a bargaining piece in exchange for other joint assets?

Engagement Rings vs. Wedding Rings in a Divorce

Before we unveil who gets the wedding ring in a divorce, it is important to clarify that there is a difference in determining the outcome of the ring’s final home for engaged couples versus that of a couple who weds, but the marriage ultimately ends in divorce. Although both scenarios will typically involve an engagement ring, as far as the law in Illinois is concerned, they are not one and the same.

Engaged couples that decide to call it quits before legalizing their marriage are subject to the state’s regulations in which they reside. In Illinois, the court looks to who ended the engagement to determine who should take final ownership of the ring.

  • If the woman breaks the engagement – Then she is required to return the ring. Illinois courts have held that a gift given in contemplation of marriage is conditional on the subsequent marriage itself, and the party who breaks the engagement has no right to any property acquired under such pretenses. Similarly, if the engagement is “mutually broken,” then the ring must be returned.
  • If the man breaks the engagement – Illinois law is not as clear when the man breaks off the engagement. They have not decided if the ring must be returned, but the majority consensus has been that the woman is entitled to keep the ring if the man ends the engagement.

Does the Woman Have to Return Her Rings in a Divorce?

If you are getting a divorce in Illinois, however, then the wife will probably get to keep the engagement ring as her own property. The gift was given to her in contemplation of a marriage that actually occurred. When couples go through a divorce in Illinois, courts typically consider the engagement ring to be a gift and the wife’s non-marital property, meaning it is not a divisible asset.

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