When You Don’t Put A Ring On It: Engagement Ring Ownership

When a relationship comes to an end, it can always bring a troubling array of issues to the forefront. While you are dealing with the distress of the breakup, the ownership of that expensive engagement ring may not be the first thing on your mind, but this issue is likely to arise sooner or later. The way that the legal system views this issue can vary depending on local laws and on other factors, so read on to learn more about who should keep the ring when an engagement agreement is broken.

Three Ways of Viewing the Disputed Property

1. A promise: In some states, the ring is given upon the condition that a marriage will take place. This means that if the marriage fails to take place, the condition has not been met and, therefore, the ring is the property of the giver of that ring and not the recipient. In these states, the ring transfer may be considered a gift by one or both parties, but the law only allows the recipient of the ring to actually obtain ownership upon the condition being met. Once the marriage occurs, the ring converts to "gift" status, and will now belong to the recipient forevermore.

2. A gift: When a state considers the ring a gift, it becomes the property of the recipient immediately. It belongs to the recipient, regardless of whether or not the marriage occurs or not. If the marriage does occur, the ring still belongs the recipient upon any divorce proceeding. The issue of whether or not a marriage will eventually occur is irrelevant when the ring is considered a gift. Also irrelevant is whether or not a marriage proposal was offered with the ring or whether or not there was an agreement to marry at the time the ring was given.

3. Implied gift: Here, the status of the ring depends on who broke off the relationship (or at least who was responsible for the relationship ending). In other words, the "dumped" party may get to keep the ring when the state views the ring as an implied gift. This issue can become a bit trickier to mediate since who broke off the engagement and who was at fault in the breakup can be a matter of personal opinion. If the couple is unable to come to an agreement on who gets the ring, the courts may have to decide for them.

If your engagement has come to a thudding end, you may need to seek the help of a family law attorney to help you negotiate for your rights.