For one reason or another, some engaged couples never make it to their
wedding day. In these difficult circumstances, couples are often left
to wonder: what happens to the ring? Laws vary from state to state, so
although it may seem logical to assume that the person who gave the ring
is entitled to get it back, this is not always the case.
Most U.S. states have laws in place specifically dealing with engagement
rings or other items given during a marriage proposal. Depending on where
a person lives, there are three ways to determine whether or not your
fiancé(e) has to return the ring if the wedding is cancelled:
Who broke off the engagement? Sometimes, fault matters. California is an “implied gift”
state that takes fault into consideration when determining what should
happen with an engagement ring. For example, if your fiancée breaks
off the engagement, or if you both decide mutually to end the engagement,
she will have to return the ring. Likewise, if you break off the engagement,
your fiancée typically gets to keep the ring unless you can make
a compelling case against it (for example, if you called the engagement
off after discovering your fiancée was unfaithful).
The ring was an outright gift. In some states, like Montana, for example, engagement rings are treated
as gifts. Once the gift is given, it cannot be taken back. All that must
be proven is that: a) a gift was intended to be made, b) the ring was
actually given, and c) the ring was accepted.
The ring was a conditional gift. In the majority of states, an engagement ring is treated as a conditional
gift, which means that it is given with the expectation that a wedding
will happen in the future. If the wedding never actually happens, the
gift has failed and must be returned to the giver, no matter who broke
off the engagement. New York and Pennsylvania are two states that follow
While only the first rule applies in California, it is important to be
familiar with these guidelines so that you can actively protect your rights
wherever you find yourself. If your fiancé(e) is reluctant to return
the ring to you, you may be able to file suit in Small Claims Court if
the ring is valued at less than $2,000. Otherwise, it is best to contact
an Irvine attorney at The Buncher Law Corporation to pursue other avenues
for getting the ring back.
For all of your divorce and family law needs, please contact an Irvine
divorce lawyer at our firm to request a consultation.