The ring’s the thing in some divorce settlements

8th March 2015 by


High-value divorce settlements are naturally the most highly contested and often see the division of multiple large assets such as property, savings and pension pots. However, there are some smaller assets which can prove to be real sticking points. Whereas, in many cases, houses are sold, pension assets are divided and savings split cleanly, so as to ensure fair settlement, a gifted piece of valuable jewellery can be a really difficult item to deal with.

Healys family solicitors in London and Brighton are often asked by clients to resolve these tricky issues and so, here, we look at the law regarding jewellery and, specifically, gifts and heirlooms.

Who gets the diamonds in a divorce financial settlement?

In the late 19th Century the Married Women’s Property Act 1870 made legal provision that a gift of jewellery, from a husband to a wife, was not owned by the spouse but was purely “for the decoration of her person”. This of course meant that when the relationship broke down, wives had to give back all jewellery, including engagement and wedding rings.

When the act was repealed in 1882, the law regarding married property was made more favourable to women and it was seen that any property owned by the woman at the point of relationship breakdown was hers to keep.

In today’s divorce settlements, this premise still holds. Jewellery owned by a woman, whether bought or gifted, should be hers to keep, unless it was expressly intended to be returned to the giver should the relationship break down.

For instance, in certain cases, engagement rings are considered to be ‘family heirlooms’ to be passed down through the generations and should therefore be returned to the husband’s family line. However, this notion can be hard to enforce, as the term heirloom is not readily defined in law.

The same argument can ensue over valuable necklaces, brooches etc. and while it may seem unromantic to itemise pieces of jewellery or make specific requests that certain items will be returned on divorce, denoting items of special significance is always a prudent move.

The drawing up of a prenuptial agreement can help alleviate disputes over heirlooms and jewellery etc, and, if there are certain family items which require protection or that one spouse wishes to keep in the event of a divorce, this can be a good starting point for the initiation of discussion regarding a pre-nup.

Healys family solicitors in London and Brighton can help

If you need advice about the drawing up of a prenuptial agreement, the family lawyers at Healys are here to help. We have many years’ experience in this field and offer an expert, yet cost-effective, service to help protect your interests should the worst happen in the future.

Alternatively, if you are getting divorced and need help and advice regarding a divorce settlement our team is here to help.

Whatever your issue, you can rely on Healys family solicitors to deal with your case sympathetically, always with efficiency and, if necessary, with robust litigation strategies to protect your best interests.

So why not call us today and let us know how we can help you.