Going through a divorce is a challenging time, and if you have a significant jewelry collection that you have been caring for and treasuring for years, if not decades, you might be concerned about what will become of your precious jewelry.
Nevada is a community property state, which means that the court divides property in a specific way. First, it looks at all the assets that the couple has, the assets that each spouse came into the marriage with, any assets that they purchased together during the marriage, any inheritances that a parent may have left for one spouse and more.
Then, the courts determine what is separate property and what is community property.
Separate property is anything owned before you got married and anything you inherited and received as a gift during your marriage. Typically, you get to keep this and it is not subject to distribution in a divorce.
Community property is assets that either spouse bought during the marriage or any debt that either spouse incurred during the marriage. Typically, this is subject to distribution in the divorce, or you can negotiate, i.e., swap one thing for another.
What about my jewelry?
Now, let’s talk about your jewelry. The pieces you inherited from your family are typically separate property under the law, which means you get to keep them. If someone other than your spouse or his family gave you jewelry as a gift, that is also separate property, and you can also keep it.
Your spouse’s gifts to you
Where things may become complicated is when looking at jewelry that your spouse or his family gave you during the marriage. The law may consider it separate property, especially if your spouse or his family gave it to you with the intention that it was only for you.
The most important element that you must prove to the court is that your spouse intended to give you this jewelry as a gift for only you. The intention behind the gift is critical. If your spouse gave you jewelry for a birthday or anniversary, the court is more likely to consider it separate property.
Now, regarding the jewelry your spouse’s family gave you, things can become more complicated. If the family gave the jewelry to you alone and not as a family gift to both spouses, it could be a separate property.
However, if the intention is not clear, it may be subject to community property division laws.
For example, if a mother-in-law has special jewelry that she wishes to keep in the family and she gives a piece of that jewelry to you with the intent that you then give that jewelry to your daughter, and the intent is clearly that the jewelry remains in the family, the court could definitely consider it community property.
It is important to note that just because it is community property, it does not mean you have to sell it. With community property, Nevada family courts aim to distribute assets equally in a divorce.
The court aims for an equal division of community property, but that does not mean that things have to be sold or cut in half.
You have options
You or your attorney can negotiate with your spouse or their attorney if there is something that is especially meaningful to you.
You can ask to keep that and in exchange, allow your spouse to have something that is of value to them. After all, he is unlikely to want female jewelry unless he intends to sell it.
It is critical to document your entire jewelry collection, its origin, receipts, current appraisals, and photographs. This can help argue your case that it is separate property and not subject to distribution between you and your spouse.
Divorce is a difficult time, and separating things is not only about the material value. Often, one of the most painful things about divorce is the thought of letting go of things that have emotional significance to you.
In these situations, you have two choices: argue that it is separate property, and if it is not separate property, negotiate with your spouse so you can keep the items you most want to keep.