Who Gets to Keep the Engagement Ring?

an engagement diamond ring on a woman fingers holding a mans hand.

There are a variety of answers depending on the specific circumstances behind the ring. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, our attorneys and mediators have a goal to listen to you and help you to understand the various options.

What Makes a Gift Conditional?

If you give your fiancé an engagement ring and then you get married, the ring belongs to them as it was given as a gift.

However, sometimes it is not that simple. An engagement ring is typically a conditional gift. The word “gift” in the legal world has a very specific meaning. Essentially, you have to mean to give the gift for it to be called a gift. A conditional gift is exactly what it sounds like: a gift with a condition. The condition is getting married.

Exceptions to the General Law

There are a number of exceptions to the general law. If the ring was given on a holiday (for example Christmas), Valentine’s Day, on the receiver’s birthday, or some other holiday such celebratory event, then the courts may look upon the giving of the engagement ring as a gift but not as a conditional gift. In this scenario, the law does not necessarily require that the ring must be returned.

Or, what if you give your fiancé an engagement ring, but for whatever reason, the two of you never marry? In that case, you would likely have to give your fiancé the ring back as you did not fulfill the condition of keeping the ring by getting married.

Another example occurs when your fiancé gives you an engagement ring, but the wedding is called off and you decide to sell the ring. In that instance, under the law you would likely owe your fiancé the value of the ring.

In addition, scenario that comes about often is if you give your fiancé an engagement ring, get married and later in the marriage, you “upgrade” your rings and get a new engagement ring. That “new” engagement ring no longer the original conditional gift engagement ring. That would instead be marital property and the value would belong to both spouses.

However, if you trade in your original engagement ring to get the new ring, the value of the old ring is not marital; it is yours.

By way of example, if you trade in your old ring for $1,000.00 and purchase a new ring for $5,000.00. The result: $1,000.00 of the new ring is not marital, but $4,000.00 of the new ring is marital.

There are an endless variety of other situations that can arise out of engagement rings and other similar items. If you have additional questions or other scenarios that have occurred to you, our office offers in-person and virtual consultations and mediations using Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and telephone. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys if you have additional questions or would like to discuss your options in more detail.