- On October 28, 2015
Before I got married, I received my grandmother’s 3.5 carat diamond pendant. It has significant monetary and sentimental value. As an expression of my love and deep commitment to the one who would become my wife, I had the diamond set in an engagement ring that both of us were very proud of. Five years after we married, my wife removed the engagement ring and refused to wear it. We are now embroiled in a hotly contested divorce of nearly every issue imaginable, from alimony to equitable distribution of marital assets.
The ring has been valued at more than $25,000. It still has great sentimental value to me. I offered to pay my wife more than its worth, but she refuses to give it up and has even threatened to give it away. It was after she rejected my offer that my attorney told me the ring is not a marital asset and my wife has the absolute right to keep it. I cannot understand how such a valuable asset that has been an important part of our marriage is not a marital asset. Please explain this to me.
A marital asset is an asset that is acquired during the marriage, provided it was not received as an inheritance or a gift from someone other than your spouse. Under certain circumstances, the beginning date can be adjusted to a date earlier than the marriage ceremony when an asset is purchased in contemplation of marriage. This exception does not apply to your engagement ring.
In New Jersey, an engagement ring is deemed a conditional gift. If the engagement is broken and you do not marry, the ring belongs to you and is to be returned. Once the marriage takes place, the gift is completed and relates back to the date, prior to the marriage, that it was given. Since the engagement ring was acquired by your wife prior to the date of the marriage, it is outside of the time frame that defines a marital asset. Your wife keeps it without any compensating benefit to you.