Engagement and wedding rings symbolize eternal love, say the diamond ads in bridal magazines.
A couple that breaks up can sometimes find creative and liberating ways to deal with those tangible symbols of a love gone wrong. Or maybe they just try to pay the bills.
Trecia A. Chavez said her husband Sean Chavez sold her wedding and engagement rings to pay attorney’s fees. She argued the rings were her separate property and their value should be offset against the marital debt allocated to her.
The Norfolk Circuit Court said the rings were marital property, and their sale, although “not a kind or chivalrous act,” was not a “dissipation” of marital assets.
When Trecia asked Judge Everett A. Martin to reconsider, he decided the engagement ring was the wife’s separate property, since her husband gave it to her before the wedding. The ring was a gift subject to a condition subsequent — the marriage — which did happen in Chavez v. Chavez. Some courts have folllowed similar reasoning in holding that when a couple splits up before the wedding, the woman has to return an engagement ring
The wedding ring, however, was marital property, even if Sean gave it to Trecia just before the officiant pronounced them husband and wife.
The court suspended the finality of the couple’s final divorce decree to take another look at the value of the engagement ring.
By Deborah Elkins