Broken Promises: Who Rightfully Owns The Ring?

Posted on: 30 January 2019

When an engagement falls through, many former fiances promptly give the engagement ring back. In fact, doing so seems to make the act of breaking up more concrete. In some cases, however, things don't resolve that smoothly. Read on to find out what could happen when a dispute arises over who rightfully owns the diamond engagement ring.

State Laws Affect the Disposition

There are at least three main legal models that deal with engagement ring ownership issues in various states. Here is a brief exploration of each one.

1. The ring is a part of the marriage and wedding process. This view looks at the act of presenting an engagement ring as just the first step in a process that is not complete until the vows have been shared. The ring is presented with the promise that a marriage will eventually take place. With a broken engagement, the act will never take place and therefore the entire process is null and void. What that means, in layman's terms, is that the person who gave the ring is entitled to having it back. Should the marriage take place, the process is considered complete and the ring forever belongs to the recipient.

2. The ring is a gift between two people, but there are "strings attached" to the gift. Since engagement rings can be very expensive gifts indeed, this way of viewing ring ownership provides the giver of the ring with certain rights. If the recipient of the ring breaks off the engagement, the ring must be given back to the giver. On the other hand, if the giver is the one who broke off the engagement, then the recipient has every legal right to keep the ring. In this instance, the ring is considered an implied gift with the implication being that a marriage will follow. When the giver fails to follow through with the marriage, the implied gift becomes just a gift.

3. The ring is unconnected to marriage and is a gift. The states that view ring ownership in this manner takes a simplistic view that separates the ring from the legal act of marriage. Just like any gift, the ring immediately becomes the property of the recipient regardless of what occurs within the relationship. The ring belongs to the recipient no matter the status of the relationship and that includes marriage and extending to a divorce.

Disputes about the ownership of expensive engagement rings are often inappropriate and too-costly to be resolved in small claims court. This issue requires the services of a family law attorney, like Marlene Dancer Adams, who is well-versed in relationship status and state law.