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Woman Wasn't Engaged, Can Keep $10K Ring From Ex-Boyfriend: Judge

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

A Long Island woman who broke up with her boyfriend can keep the $10,000 ring he gave her, even though he called it an "engagement" ring, a New York judge has ruled.

New York, like many other states, typically requires women to return engagement rings in the event a proposed marriage is broken off, reports The New York Post. However, 48-year-old Debbie Lopez successfully argued to keep the ring given to her by her ex-boyfriend in 2010, despite having broken off the relationship in 2012.

How did Lopez succeed in keeping this pricey piece of jewelry?

Ring Given as Gift, Not in Contemplation of Marriage: Judge

In Lopez's case, she was able to argue that the ring -- which her ex had claimed was an engagement ring -- was in fact merely a gift given to her in recognition of "being a great woman" and a good mother of the couple's child, reports The New York Post.

Lopez's former boyfriend, 52-year old Joseph Robert Torres, told the court that he had asked Lopez to marry him and that she had said yes. But the judge in the case ruled that the ring was given as an outright gift to Lopez, and not as a conditional gift made in the contemplation of marriage. (News reports don't explain why the judge believed Lopez's version of events, in what otherwise seemed to be a "he said / she said" situation.)

Engagement Rings as Conditional Gifts

The laws regarding whether a woman who has received an engagement ring is required to return it vary both by state and by situation. Generally, however, in many states, engagement rings are considered conditional gifts that can be revoked in the event that the condition (in this case a marriage) fails to occur.

But even in states which consider engagement rings to be conditional gifts, the person who received the ring may successfully argue to keep the ring if, as the judge found in Lopez's case, the ring was not given under the condition of marriage but rather as an outright gift that cannot be revoked.

In other cases, subsequent events may determine whether the ring was in given as a conditional gift. For example, a New York man who sued his former fiancee over a $53,000 ring lost his case; his ex introduced text messages the man had sent after breaking off the engagement in which he told her that the ring was a "$50,000 parting ring. Enough for a down payment on a house." That message, the court found, made the ring an outright gift.

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