People often focus on the symbolic value of engagement rings, but for many couples engagement rings have real financial value that can make them contested items in a divorce or after a broken engagement. Beyond their actual worth, many people also place sentimental value on getting to keep the ring or have it returned to them respectively. Consequently, the law has special rules to deal with who gets the ring in the event of a couples separation. However, the rules change depending on whether the couple is going through a divorce or whether there is a broken engagement as to who has legal claim to the engagement ring ownership.
The key thing to understand about engagement rings in a divorce is that the law in Illinois treats the ring as a conditional gift. This means that it is a freely given gift, but that the gift is only given if some condition comes to pass, in this case if the couple gets married. If the couple is getting divorced, it necessarily means that the marriage occurred, so the ring qualifies as a gift to the wife. This status as a gift is important because of how Illinois treats marital property.
In Illinois, gifts to one spouse do not qualify as marital property, including gifts from one spouse to another. This means that they are not divided up during the divorce. Consequently, the wife is allowed to keep the ring in a divorce without having to bring it through the property division process.
The rules with regard to broken engagements are different because Illinois has a special statute known as the Breach of Promises Act. This Act exists because people in Illinois used to be able to sue in cases where one party to an engagement broke off the wedding, and they could get damages for the emotional harm and embarrassment of the broken engagement. Naturally, this led to abuse by people seeking excessive damages, so the legislature limited the available damages to actual monetary harm that people suffer as a result of the broken engagement.
The loss of an engagement ring is one of the biggest financial harms that people can suffer as a result of a broken engagement. However, the law still places importance on the classification of a ring as a conditional gift. In a practical sense, this means that it matters who broke the engagement. If the future wife breaks the engagement, then the man gets the ring, and if the future husband breaks the engagement, then the woman can keep it. In the case of a mutual breakup the ring reverts to the husband.
Property division is just one of many nuanced issues in a divorce. If you have questions about how the divorce process works, contact a skilled Naperville divorce attorney today.