Dividing the family assets – who keeps the jewellery?
The answer unfortunately is not straightforward as much depends upon what other assets there are which make up the matrimonial pot, the value of the jewellery and the needs of the parties.
The usual starting point is that the jewellery belongs to the party for whose benefit it was purchased or gifted, irrespective of who purchased or gifted the jewellery, unless it can be shown that it was agreed/expressly intended for the jewellery to be returned to the giver in the event of the relationship breaking down. This may for example be expressed in a pre-nuptial or post nuptial agreement.
However, what if the jewellery is the main or only asset of the marriage and is of significant value?
Well, when considering financial matters the Court is required to consider all the circumstances of the case to ensure a fair outcome is achieved and the needs of both parties are met. Therefore, it may be the case that one party has been gifted jewellery worth a significant sum by the other party during the course of the marriage but is it fair that the party who received the gift retains the jewellery in its entirety, particularly if purchased during the course of the marriage and there are no other significant assets?
The more valuable the jewellery, the more likely the jewellery will be taken into account when determining the overall financial settlement, irrespective of who the jewellery “belonged to” during the course of the marriage. It is not necessarily the case however that the owner of the jewellery is required to hand over the jewellery to the other party, more likely the other party would retain a larger share of the other available assets in order to achieve a fair outcome.
The situation however may be different if the jewellery was received by way of inheritance as the party who received jewellery in this way, even if during the course of the marriage, could argue such jewellery is not a matrimonial asset but rather a non-matrimonial asset and therefore should not be taken into account.
In summary therefore, who gets to keep the jewellery depends upon the circumstances of each case, to include consideration of the value of the jewellery, value of the other matrimonial assets and the needs of the parties.
It is therefore important that you seek advice regarding the above so that you know exactly where you stand with regard to division of the family jewellery and what steps you need to take should you be unable to reach an agreement regarding the same.
Harjit can assist in resolving financial matters arising from divorce or separation in a firm, pragmatic and cost effective manner and is a member of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Panel and a member of Resolution.