Ever wonder if you could get the ring back that you gave your wife or fiance if things don't work out? Well, real estate mogul Larry Lipschutz is suing to get his $100,000 diamond ring back from Nadia Kiderman, a Park Avenue dentist he tied the knot with in 2006.
It turns out though, that Kiderman wasn't legally divorced from her previous husband when she married Lipschutz, which has Lipschutz claiming their marriage a legal nullity, entitling him to the ring back (or it's fair value, which he claims is $150,000).
A Rockland judge ordered Kiderman to return the ring to Lipschutz last year, but the appellate division overturned that ruling last week when it decided that there were still issues of fact that needed to be resolved, particularly whether Lipschutz was aware that Kiderman was still legally married when he gave her the ring.
Lipschutz claims he did not know his bride-to-be was still legally married when he proposed to her or when they had an Orthodox-Jewish ceremony in 2006 and is thus entitled to the ring back. However the appellate court concluded that he was "well aware" of their existing marriage, and the court is now holding the ring until this case is settled.
Kiderman claims that Lipschutz only insisted on her getting a Get, a Jewish divorce (which is not a legal divorce in the eyes of New York State), which she got in 2002. The two then married in 2006, and in 2007, she obtained a legal divorce from her previous husband. But things have since soured between Kiderman and Lipschutz, and now he wants the ring back.
While New York is still moving toward a no-fault divorce law, it does have a no-fault provision in terms of returning engagement rings. Under Civil Rights Law §80-b, "a person, not under any impediment to marry, will no longer be denied the right to recover property given in contemplation of a marriage which has not occurred." This means that if you give an engagement ring to someone (in contemplation of marriage), you are entitled to the ring back if either of you call the wedding off; it does not matter who is responsible for the failure to consummate the marriage.
However, one who gives property (such as an engagement ring) and knows that an impediment to a lawful marriage exists, will be precluded from such recovery. Here, the question whether Lipschutz knew Kiderman was still legally married remains disputed; if he knew of the marriage (an impediment to marry), then the ring would be deemed an irrevocable gift, but if he did not know, then it would be a conditional gift that vested when they married. Since their marriage happened while she was still married to another man, the marriage would be deemed a nullity, and in terms of the law, would never have happened, and she would have to return the ring.
As a side note, if you're thinking about getting engaged, it's probably best to do it on a day that's not a holiday or birthday, otherwise it can likely be argued that the ring was an irrevocable gift, rather than a conditional gift as part of a binding contract, conditioned upon a valid marriage taking place in the future.
***This Web Site does not provide any legal advice. This blog is NOT a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Contact The Mandel Law Firm for all your matrimonial needs by clicking here.