Engagement Rings and Gifts: what happens to valuable items when a couple divorces

When parties separate, often the sentimental items such as jewellery and gifts can often be overlooked for the bigger items such as houses and pensions. However, these items can often be valuable and more importantly sentimental and it is important that they are considered.

In financial proceedings, all personal belongings exceeding £500 in value must be disclosed. This can include, but is not limited to, jewellery, watches, cars, paintings etc. These items form part of the assets and can be a financial resource of the parties, although unless they are significant in value, it is unlikely that parties will be expected to sell the item to meet their needs.

Usually household items, such as furniture, is divided by agreement.

Engagements rings are presumed to be absolute gifts, unless they are given on the condition that they will be returned for a specific reason or in specific circumstances.

Other gifts also usually remain in the possession of the person who had been gifted it, unless it was gifted subject to a condition, such as that they would be returned in the event of a breakdown of the relationship.

Heirlooms, items which are passed from generation to generation, can be treated differently on divorce. Given that heirlooms would usually be from one spouses family, with the intention of it being passed through that family, they can often be ringfenced. However, as with all capital, as part of the sharing principle, these can be used if necessary to meet the parties’ needs.

Often it is important to consider the costs of litigation if there is a dispute in respect of a particular item, although the Court are able to deal with the issue, costs are not always proportionate.