When an engagement is broken, a common dispute arises as to who keeps the ring. In that case, one partner may have given the other an engagement ring. Since these can be worth a lot of money, it can lead to a dispute over who gets to keep it after the break up. The answer to this depends on the rules for that particular jurisdiction. It depends on whether they treat the ring as a:

  • Promise: Some courts consider a ring as a part of a promise to marry. In such cases, the giver of the ring might be able to keep the ring if the court considers the promise final upon marriage.
  • Gift: Some states consider engagement rings to be a gift, meaning that it becomes the recipient’s property immediately. They would then keep the ring in the event of a break up.
  • Implied Gift: Here, the court would make their decision based on which party was more responsible for the break-up.

When Is the Engagement Ring Considered a Gift?

Some courts hold that a engagement ring is a gift from the donor to the donee. If the courts consider that the ring is a gift, the the donee or the person who received the gift does not have to legally return the ring even after a break up.

An engagement ring is considered a gift if:

  • The donor or person giving the ring has the intent to give the ring as a gift
  • The donor delivers the ring to the donee
  • The donee accepts the engagement ring

When courts use this concept, the state that when a woman gets the ring as a gift because they accepted the proposal to consider marriage and an actual marriage or condition does not have to occur.

When Is the Engagement Ring Not Considered a Gift?

Even though the donee gives the gift to the donee to keep which shows a sign that he is giving a gift, a some courts consider that this gift is conditional. The condition is for a marriage ceremony to occur. A conditional gift means that until some future event happens, the gift is not accepted or is final. This means that if the event does not occur, the gift will revert back to the donor. In other words, the man gives the ring to the woman as a condition for her to actually marry him and if they do marry, the ring becomes hers and if the marriage does not go through, the man still retains title to the ring.

When Is the Engagement Ring Considered an Implied Conditional Gift?

Some states are fault-based states which means that the return of the ring depends on who broke up with who first. In these states, the ring is considered an implied conditional gift meaning that if the guy breaks up the engagement, the girl gets to keep the ring since she did not cause the breakup. If the girl is the one who breaks up the engagement, then the guy can request the ring back since it was not his fault the engagement did not turn into a marriage. Bottom line is that who ever gets dumped, gets to keep the ring.

What If the Parties Can’t Settle the Dispute?

In some cases, the parties may be able to settle on their own the question of who gets to he keep their ring. For instance, they may be able to work out some sort of property agreement, or they may attend some mediation or negotiation sessions outside of court. However, if this type of resolution is not possible, the parties may need to file a claim in court.

From there, the judge will examine the evidence to determine the disposition of the ring. This may require some analysis of factors such as the length of the relationship, the cost of the ring, and whether the ring was unique or irreplaceable (such as the case where the ring is a family heirloom). In some cases, the issue of the engagement ring is only part of a broader determination of the unmarried couple’s property rights.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Resolving an Engagement Ring Dispute?

Engagement rings can often be worth much financially and can also have a sentimental value in some cases. You may need to hire a qualified family lawyer if you have a dispute involving engagement rings or other property in a pre-marital setting. Your attorney can represent you in court and can help ensure that your interests are protected.