Wedding rings are a symbol of a promise couples make to one another. When you look at that ring on your partner’s hand at the beginning of your marriage, all you feel is happiness. When a marriage deteriorates, one question haunts you. What happens to the ring that encapsulates that promise?

It’s common for you to want to take back the ring that holds that promise, especially if you spent a lot of money on it. However, it can be very difficult to get that engagement ring back.

The laws

Every state has a different version of their views on who is entitled to the ring. California law looks at the ring as a promise. Whoever “fulfills” that promise will end up with the ring. Texas law looks at the ring as a pre-marriage gift. They view the engagement ring as the receiver’s separate property. Other states opt to look at the fault of the marriage. For example, if one person cheats during the marriage, the other will end up with the ring.

New Jersey, however, thinks of the engagement ring as a conditional gift. This means that the ring will be returned to the giver if the engagement ends before the wedding. This is because the giver meant for the ring to lead to a marriage. When that doesn’t happen, the condition isn’t satisfied and, therefore, is taken away. If the marriage were to go through, the “conditional” gift turns into a completed gift. The ring then becomes the full property of the recipient and cannot be bargained for in the divorce.

The exception

One major exception to many state’s laws is if the engagement ring was a family heirloom. Even in states where engagement rings are considered gifts, a family heirloom must be returned to the family it once belonged to. This is because the family only allowed the receiver to have it due to the marriage.

Figuring out who gets the ring in a divorce or separation can be difficult. You never know how harsh your divorce may turn out or what your ex-partner wants from your time together. It’s important to know what your options are and to stay focused on what you want.