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Who Gets the Ring When the Engagement is Off?

on Jan 26, 2012 11:33 AM

engagement-ring-blog-image_1What happens to the ring when wedding bliss turns to wedding amiss? This is a question, which lawyers will tell you, does not have a simple answer.

Etiquette may suggest that if the woman cancels the wedding she should return the ring, but keep it if the man calls it off. Or perhaps the ring should be returned in all cases. Cultural tradition may determine who keeps the ring.

However, in cases where the couple cannot reach an agreement, the decision may be left to the law.

Concerning the topic of engagement rings, the law varies by state and can also change over time. There is no unanimous decision that has been made, so each situation can have a different outcome.

Courts might generally agree that the engagement ring is considered a gift. But what type of gift is the question. 

  • Conditional Gift: There are many states that will determine that the ring was given on condition of a marriage, and that if there is no marriage then the ring should be returned.

  • Implied Conditional Gift: Some courts may consider the ring an implied conditional gift. In this case, if the man is the one to break the engagement, the ring does not have to be returned.

  • Unconditional Gift: Other courts may determine the ring is an unconditional gift that does not need to be returned.

Even if states have established what type of gift an engagement ring is, there may be other factors that come in to play that will ultimately determine what the court decides.

What if one of the parents helped to pay for the ring? Do they have a right to be reimbursed? What if the ring is a family heirloom?

Even the date the ring was given might play in to the decision as well. For example, if the ring was given on Christmas, or Valentine’ Day, some courts might consider it a present.

We hope that you’ll never be in this unfortunate position. But we all realize that it’s not worth taking the plunge if the only thing pretty about your relationship is the ring. Listen to your heart!

What do you think should be done if a couple calls the whole thing off? Who gets the ring?

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the law, information contained in this post may become outdated. It should not be relied on as legal advice. In no event will Jewelers Mutual be liable for any damages resulting from use of this material.

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