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Check Texas property rights before you put a ring on it

The day a couple gets married, a husband and wife unite, but the rings become individual personal property. Property division disputes over engagement and wedding rings seem almost petty next to other big-ticket marital assets, but they have worth that other items may not- sentimental value.

Start with the romance. A Texas couple becomes engaged. A man cements the bond with a fiancée by placing an engagement ring on the woman's finger. The ring symbolizes a promise of marriage.

Unfortunately, the couple's relationship ends before marriage. Who gets the ring?

Just in case couples cannot resolve the ring's ownership amicably, Texas common law includes a statute that deals with disputes over this kind of property. Engagement rings are conditional gifts. In other words, there is a string attached to ownership.

The property belongs to the recipient when the marriage occurs.

The conditional terms of the gift are not the only consideration. A judge will want to know which fiancé(e) broke off the engagement as a way to establish fault. A judge could rule that the fiancé(e) who ended the engagement should forfeit the gift.

Formerly engaged couples always have the option of coming to terms about ring ownership without the courts help. A prenuptial agreement could clarify which fiancé(e) had the right to the jewelry if the engagement is called off.

Once the condition of marriage is met - unless a prenuptial agreement declares something different - rings become separate property, while almost everything else the one-time fiancé(e)s owned becomes marital property.

Ex-spouses sometimes wonder what to do with engagement and wedding rings after divorce. Since ownership is not in dispute, the jewelry could be sold or reworked. The ring could be preserved and passed along to someone else to whom it might have meaning, like the former couple's child.

Texas family law attorneys provide advice for questions about individual, marital and post-divorce property rights.

Source: huffingtonpost.com, "What To Do With The Ring Your Ex Gave You," Tracy E. Clifford, Feb. 28, 2013

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