What happens to the ring after a broken engagement?

Even if partners are able to amicably end their relationship, they may have differing opinions about who keeps the engagement ring. Courts have devised a way to determine who is the “rightful” owner—but there may be more than one way to determine who should have the ring. Determining who gets the ring after a broken engagement

Courts May Decide Who Keeps the Ring After a Broken Engagement

Courts traditionally view engagement rings as “conditional gifts,” or a gift that is contingent on a future event (marriage). If the condition is not met, the giver has the right to get the gift back. Conditional gift decisions are usually no-fault, so it does not matter which partner broke the engagement. However, there could be extenuating circumstances where returning the ring is not fair to the receiver.

When determining who should keep the ring, the law may consider: 

  • The ring as a gift. Some courts consider the engagement ring as a gift from one partner to the other. If the ring constitutes a gift, the giver has no right to revoke it, and the receiver will get to keep it. However, engagement rings are only considered gifts in rare cases.
  • The ring as compensation. A ring can be considered compensation under the law as long as both parties acknowledged that the ring was being offered as compensation. For example, if a man proposes marriage by offering an expensive ring to a partner who has lent him a considerable sum of money or performed work for him in the past, the ring may be considered compensation.
  • Who broke the engagement. Some courts take into account the reason or party responsible for the broken engagement when considering who should keep the ring. This "fault-based" approach is sometimes used to award the ring to the receiver if the giver is the one who called off the wedding.

A broken engagement can lead to awkward and painful situations. Our family law attorneys can take over the burden on your behalf, allowing you to move on with your life as easily as possible. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to learn more.