Is a wedding ring or other wedding gift marital property or separate property upon divorce in Virginia?
Virginia Code § 20-107.3 defines separate property as, inter alia, all property, real and personal, acquired by either party before the marriage, and marital property as, inter alia, all property acquired by each party during the marriage which is not otherwise separate property. So what happens when you receive a wedding ring before the officiant pronounces you husband and wife? Would not the ring be treated as separate property because it was acquired before the actual marriage?
The Norfolk City Circuit Court recently held that it does not care about such mere fractions of time in Chavez v. Chavez (CL10-6528). In that case, the wedding ring at issue was given on the day of marriage but mere minutes before the marriage became official. The wife argued that the wedding ring was her own separate property not subject to equitable distribution because she acquired it immediately before the marriage. The court disagreed. The court held that the law does not care about mere fractions of a day unless justice requires it. The court, therefore, held that the wedding ring was marital property subject to equitable distribution because it was acquired during the day of marriage and justice did not require it to take into consideration the fact that the ring was really acquired mere minutes before the officiant pronounced the parties husband and wife.