Divorce clients often ask whether an engagement ring is considered a marital asset in subject to equitable distribution. In the case of short-term marriages, some Husbands will even inquire whether the ring will be returned to them.
Under Florida law, when the parties become married, the Husband no longer has any right to seek a return of the engagement ring. Nor is the ring marital property to be included in the equitable distribution scheme. In short, the ring is simply a premarital gift that is owned solely by the Wife. See Melvik v. Melvik, 669 So. 2d 328 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996); Greenberg v. Greenberg, 698 So. 2d 938 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997).
Most clients accept that the law allows the Wife to keep her engagement ring. The issue is more complex where the ring is a "family heirloom" that previously belonged to a member of the Husband's family.
In one case, the Husband asked the Judge to order that the "heirloom" ring be returned to him. The Court did so, ordering that the ring would be passed on to one of the parties' children. Florida's Second District Court of Appeal reversed this "Solomonic" decision, reasoning that there is no special consideration for a ring that is a family heirloom. See Randall v. Randall, 56 So. 3d 817, 818-819 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011).
In Randall, there was no reference to any agreement requiring the Wife to return the ring in the event of a divorce. If the parties reached any agreement, the Husband may have a civil claim to recover the ring.
If you have questions about your rights in a dissolution of marriage case, contact an experienced Tampa family law attorney.