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The Wedding is Off. Who Keeps the Ring?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Ever wake up next to your fiancé and suddenly realize that you can't bear to spend the rest of your life with them? A broken engagement can turn into an emotional fiasco. Financially, it can also be a nightmare if you already shelled out thousands of dollars for that piece of jewelry.

This might make you start to wonder whether or not your ex is required to return the engagement ring. Or, if there are engagement ring laws that will allow you to get that shiny band back.

Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer. It depends on how courts in your jurisdiction view the issue.

1. If the engagement ring is considered a gift, the receiver will likely keep it.

Usually there are three elements that are required: (1) the giver intended to give the ring as a gift, (2) the giver gave the ring to the receiver, and (3) the receiver accepted the gift. If these elements are satisfied, usually courts will award the receiver the ring.

2. If the engagement ring is a conditional gift, the ring can be returned to the giver.

Conditional gifts come hand-in-hand with some sort of condition that must be met, such as a marriage. If there is no marriage, some courts will hand the ring back over to the giver.

3. If the engagement ring is compensation, it might stay with the receiver.

If both parties understand the ring is given as compensation, a court may award the ring to the receiver.

4. Fault may also factor into the court's decision.

Some courts may look at who caused the broken engagement and then award the ring to whoever wasn't at fault.

5. Courts may also simply reward the ring to the giver to restore them to their previous economic position.

Courts that follow this approach view engagements as a contract. Once broken, they seek to restore both parties to their original pre-engagement position. This means awarding the ring back to the giver.

The way that engagement ring law works in your state may vary. And ultimately, if you want a clean break it might be best to avoid a lawsuit that forces your ex to return the engagement ring.

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