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Engagement Ring Laws

Who Keeps the Ring If the Wedding is Called Off?

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Engagement Ring Photo Photo: © Ted Stritof

Although etiquette rules that an engagement ring should be returned when a wedding is called off regardless of who broke the engagement, the legal system has differing opinions on this issue.

 

  • Possible Determining Circumstances:
  • Where you live.
  • How you received the engagement ring.
  • Who broke the engagement.

 

States Where an Engagement Ring Must Be Returned:
Many courts look at an engagement ring as a conditional gift that is given in contemplation of marriage. If there is no marriage, then the engagement ring needs to be returned.

The courts also have held in these states that the reasoning for no-fault divorces holds for no-fault broken engagements so an engagement ring should always be returned regardless of who decided to call off the engagement.

  • Conditional Gift States:
  • Iowa
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin

States Where an Engagement Ring May Be Kept:
In these locales, an engagement ring is considered to be an implied conditional gift and if the guy breaks the engagement, he won't get the ring back. If he doesn't break the engagement, he can request its return. Bottom line: If you get dumped, you get to keep the ring in these states.

  • Implied Conditional Gift States:
  • California
  • Texas
  • Washington

States Where an Engagement Ring Can Always Be Kept:
Other courts have held the belief that an engagement ring is an unconditional gift and so it doesn't need to be given back.

  • Unconditional Gift States:
  • Montana

Family Heirloom Engagement Rings:
If you are considering giving a family heirloom engagement ring, legal experts recommend having a prenuptial agreement that lists who will keep the engagement ring in the event of a break up.

Special Days
If an engagement ring is given on a special day such as a birthday, Valentine's Day, Christmas, etc., many courts will not require that the engagement ring be returned.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This text should not be regarded as legal advice. Please consult an attorney familiar with marriage and family law and your own personal circumstances for legal advice regarding the return of an engagement ring.

State laws often change. Please notify us of any oversights or errors.

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