Iowa Family Law Blog

With this ring, I thee wed . . . or not
Aug. 16, 2012Mary A. Zambreno, Iowa Family Law Blog
Engagement ring

Who keeps the engagement ring when the wedding is called off? Where you happen to live will determine the answer.

Each side will ultimately argue that the other party called off the wedding and will use that to justify the reason why he or she should keep the ring. Some states indeed examine who was at “fault” in terminating the engagement when determining who will keep the ring. In Iowa, however, this is irrelevant. In Fierro v. Hoel, 465 N.W.2d 669, 672 (Iowa App. 1990), the Court of Appeals ruled that “an engagement ring given in contemplation of marriage is an impliedly conditional gift; it is a contemplated gift only upon marriage. If the wedding is called off, for whatever reason, the gift is not capable of becoming a contemplated gift and must be returned to the donor.” The donor did not have to justify whether or not he was at “fault” for the termination of the wedding.

Does the donor also keep the ring in the event of a divorce regardless of fault? In Iowa, once the condition – that is, marriage – is met, the ring becomes a gift to the recipient, classified as his or her separate property upon divorce. In the case In re Marriage of Fenton, 789 N.W.2d 165 (Iowa App. 2010), the wife argued that there were certain items of jewelry that should not have been classified as marital property subject to division because they were gifts. The husband did not dispute they were gifts but argued that the Iowa Code section dealing with division of assets contemplated only gifts from third parties, not gifts between spouses. The Court disagreed, stating that the statute “states simply that gifts are separate property. Nothing in the statute excludes gifts between spouses.”

So brides and grooms, take note: Steer clear of that pawn shop . . . for now.

Article reference 2ANUTAUXBT6W.



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Practice Area Categories: Family Law

Mary A. Zambreno




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