A broken engagement is a painful and confusing experience. You have to make some calls to notify your vendors, cancel your orders, and inquire about refunds. If you’ve already sent out your invitations, you have to make a formal announcement that the wedding is off.
Another issue you need to settle is the engagement ring. You and your ex-partner must decide who gets to keep it. You can discuss the issue amicably on your own, but if that’s not possible, you might need to bring in a lawyer to help you settle.
The Legal Aspect of Engagement Rings
States have different laws for determining the ownership of the engagement ring when the wedding is called off. Generally, courts classify engagement rings in three ways: as irrevocable gifts, as conditional gifts, or as compensation.
A similar rule applies to wedding rings after a divorce. Your white gold wedding band can either be a pure gift, which you can keep, or a conditional gift. The person who paid for the wedding rings can ask for them back since they gave it to you on the condition that you’ll remain married.
Conditional or Unconditional Gifts
In states that recognize engagement rings as gifts, the giver cannot ask for them back, since he or she gave them willingly.
On the other hand, the giver can reclaim the ring if the court considers it as a conditional gift. A conditional gift is dependent on a future condition or event, which is a marriage, in the case of engagement rings. Since you failed to meet the condition of the gift by calling the wedding off, you also surrender your right to the engagement ring.
In a no-fault approach, the engagement ring always goes back to the giver. However, some states believe that the exchange of an engagement ring is a contractual transaction.
Engagements are agreements that both parties will marry. If the giver of the ring calls off the wedding, the recipient gets to keep the ring because the other person backed out of the agreement. Similarly, the recipient should return the engagement ring if they decided not to proceed with the wedding.
The two scenarios are examples of a fault-based approach. Whoever decided to end the engagement shouldn’t get to keep the ring.
Engagement Rings as Compensation
In some cases, the engagement ring is classified as compensation, but both parties must be aware of the arrangement. For example, a woman offered money and labor for her fiancé’s business. In exchange, the man gave her a diamond ring and promised to marry her. When they ended the engagement, the woman retained ownership of the ring because it was given to her as compensation for her money and labor.
More and more states follow the no-fault conditional approach to engagement rings to make proceedings simple. However, some states have unique intricacies to their laws. Learn about the engagement ring laws in your state to find out if you can keep your ring or not. If you’re still not sure, consult a family law attorney.