We’ve all seen the videos: One partner gets down on one knee, offers their significant other a ring, and proposes marriage. Their partner says yes, and he or she slides the ring onto their partner’s finger. All is bliss—until it is not, and the engagement is broken.
When the wedding is called off, the recipient often claims they get to keep the ring because it was a gift, but the giver claims the ring is theirs because they purchased it. Who is right? The answer is simple: We must look at the factors that come in to play with conditional gifts.
The Engagement Ring Is a Conditional Gift
Now what does that mean? An outright gift, with no conditions attached, is the property of the recipient. A gift, such as an engagement ring, given on the expectation that a future event will occur, such as marriage, is a conditional gift. If the required condition is not met (i.e., either party cancels the wedding), the gift must be returned.
Exceptions to the Conditional Rule
Although courts usually rule that the ring must return to the giver (provided that the wedding is called off), a ring may remain with the recipient if there was egregious conduct or if the ring was an outright gift rather than a conditional one.
For example, if a ring is a birthday gift or any other gift that was not conditioned upon marriage, then no requirements must be fulfilled in order to maintain possession of the ring. Additionally, if an engagement is broken due to egregious conduct made on behalf of the giver, a court may allow the recipient to keep the ring. The keyword is “may.” It is not a slam-dunk rule.
If you are looking to retrieving an engagement ring back or are unsure if you are able to keep the gift, contact a licensed attorney.