From time to time I come across a client who asks whether an engagement ring is considered a marital asset and, if so, whether it will be subject to the equitable distribution/property division performed at the end of the case. The simple answer is that an engagement ring is considered a pre-marital gift and therefore it is the non-marital property of the recipient (generally the Wife). “It was error for the trial court to consider the wife’s premarital property, such as her engagement and wedding rings which were found to be gifts to the wife, in the equitable distribution scheme.” Melvik v. Melvik, 669 So.2d 328 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).
A wedding ring, on the other hand, is considered an inter-spousal gift (i.e. a gift between spouses during the marriage) and the equitable distribution statute (Fla. Stat. 61.075) deems inter-spousal gifts to be marital assets subject to division.
On a related note, if the parties fail to marry in the first place (such as when an engagement is broken off) then the ring must be returned. Although an engagement ring is considered a gift—see above–it is deemed a conditional gift premised upon the occurence of a marriage. “However, the decided weight of authority in other jurisdictions allows recovery by the donor if the engagement is terminated by the donee or by mutual consent of the parties. The rationale of those cases is that such presents are not absolute but are made upon the implied condition that a marriage ensue.” Gill v. Shively, 320 So.2d 415 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975).