Engagement rings and wedding rings are deeply personal items that can carry significant sentimental and financial value. They can become an issue of contention in a divorce. You may be wondering: Do I have to return my engagement ring after a divorce in Washington? As an engagement ring is a pre-marital, conditional gift, the answer is generally ‘no’—though some people may want to return it for personal reasons. In this article, our Spokane divorce attorney explains the most important things to know about engagement rings and divorce in Washington State.
Know the Law: Washington is a Community Property State
First and foremost, it is important to emphasize that Washington is a community property state. RCW 26.16.030 defines community property broadly as property “acquired after marriage.” Each spouse owns an equal (50-50) share in community property. The State generally splits community property evenly in a divorce. Each spouse retains their full, undivided share in their separate property. Assets acquired prior to the marriage are separate property in Washington.
An Engagement Ring is a Conditional Gift (Separate Property)
In Washington, an engagement ring is a conditional gift that takes the form of pre-marital property. The recipient takes the conditional gift on the promise to go through with the marriage. Once the marriage happens, the condition has been satisfied—meaning the recipient is now the permanent and rightful owner of the engagement ring. As such, the State of Washington views an engagement ring as separate property. Under state law, the recipient of the ring has the right to keep the ring even if the marriage eventually ends in divorce.
Exception: There are some potential exceptions to the rule. For example, when an engagement ring is a family heirloom given with the mutual understanding that it must be returned in the event of a divorce, the ring may need to be returned or else risk a legal battle. Some engagement rings may also be returnable per a prenuptial agreement.
Engagement Rings & Divorce in Washington State: A Personal Decision
With limited exceptions, a person does not need to return an engagement ring after a divorce in Washington. Of course, the legal standard is not the only thing that matters. There are plenty of personal reasons why someone may want to keep (or return) their engagement ring regardless of what the law says. It is ultimately a deeply personal decision that should be considered and addressed as part of the more comprehensive divorce settlement.
Contact Our Spokane, WA Divorce Lawyer for Immediate Legal Help
At Hodgson Law Office, our Spokane divorce attorney is a skilled, knowledgeable advocate for clients. If you have any questions or concerns about engagement rings and divorce, we are more than ready to help. Give us a call now or contact us online for a fully confidential initial legal consultation. From our Spokane law office, we provide family law representation throughout all of Eastern Washington.