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Who keeps the engagement ring when the wedding gets called off?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2014 | Property Division |

Let’s say that you and your sweetheart have finally reached the point where you are ready for marriage. The two of you say “yes” and it’s off to dreamland, right? That’s the way it’s supposed to go — but it doesn’t always end in such a happy fashion.

In fact, there are plenty of examples where the engagement itself is fuel for some unexpected stressors. If the couple is unable to deal with these stressors, then their relationship may fall apart. That’s when a really interesting question gets raised: what happens to the engagement ring? Who gets possession of the ring, and what kind of case can be made by either party to obtain the ring?

The prevailing logic is that the engagement ring is a symbolic contract. In other words, the giver of the ring expects the receiver to go through with the marriage. If the receiver doesn’t, then the contract has not been fulfilled and the ring giver is entitled to the property. However, state laws obviously play a huge role in this issue, and there can be extenuating circumstances that make the matter more complicated.

For example, take a recent case out of New York where a couple had been engaged for 14 months. The man eventually called off the wedding, via text no less, much to his fiancee’s chagrin.

Now, under New York law, the man was entitled to the ring he gave his fiancee — but he sent her a follow-up text where he referred to the ring as a “parting ring,” thus changing the ring into a gift, as opposed to a contractual symbol. It was ruled that the woman thus is entitled to the ring.

Source: Buffalo News, “Judge rules jilted woman can keep $53,000 diamond engagement ring,” Patrick Lakamp, April 5, 2014