When a wedding is called off, who keeps the engagement ring?

When a wedding is called off, who keeps the engagement ring?

Let’s call the Whole Thing Off: Then Comes the Engagement Ring Debate

It is well settled that in New York State, if you go through with a marriage, the engagement ring is the property of the spouse in receipt of the gift. The rationale is that the ring is a gift “in contemplation of marriage.” Therefore, as long as a legal ceremony takes place, the engagement ring has officially changed hands. However, the question often arises as to whether the spouse receiving the ring has to give it back if the wedding never takes place.

On July 1, 2012, only three months before their wedding, an engaged woman, adorned by her $53,000 engagement ring, received a text message from her fiancé calling off the wedding after a three year engagement.

The general rule in such a case is that the ring, as a gift in contemplation of marriage, would be returned to the purchaser because the wedding never took place. However, apparently in a moment of sarcasm during the break-up news, the husband-to-be said, “I will reimburse you for the wedding preparations. Plus you get a $50,000 parting gift. Enough for a down payment on a house.” Weeks later, he demanded return of the ring. Judge Russell P. Buscaglia of the New York Supreme Court ruled that because the ring was referred to as a “parting gift,” it no longer was associated with the promise of marriage. The husband-to-be argued through his attorney that it was simply sarcasm but to no avail. His reference to the ring as a “gift” changed the nature of the case.

This case just shows how the details can change the categorization of property. If you are not sure whether you are entitled to an engagement ring or any other item of marital property or joint property, the attorneys at Keil & Siegel LLP will help to point you in the right direction.

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Image source: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr Commons.

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