Calling off an engagement can be an emotional and devastating time for both parties. Whether you decided you couldn’t go through with a wedding or you were left at the altar, you are undoubtedly experiencing a lot of emotions. Eventually, you will need to start dealing with practical matters — and one of them is what happens to the ring after an engagement has been called off.
This issue has come to court several times over the years. The decisions have not always gone the same way. The legal matter can depend on what the court defines as a gift and whether a ring constitutes a contract.
The Legal Definition of a Gift
The court generally defines a gift as something that was intended as a present and received that way. Some courts hold that engagement rings are offered as gifts. They are received as such, and so there is no legal contract between giver and receiver. In those cases, the person who was given the engagement ring is permitted to keep it.
However, in many courts, the ring is viewed as a conditional gift. That means the person gave the ring with the expectation an event would occur in the future — in this case a wedding — where that gift would be used. Because the condition wasn’t met, the receiver must return the ring.
In the past, some have successfully argued the wedding wasn’t the conditional event. Rather, the engagement was — and so all the terms of that condition were met. The receiver accepted the proposal. In these cases, the receiver is allowed to keep the ring because they held up their part of the conditional event.
Occasionally, breakups inspire great legal creativity. People have argued engagement rings represent compensation, when the receiver did something of great expense for the giver, such as putting them through school. In that case, the receiver keeps the ring.
Other courts treat the ring as a contract. If the wedding doesn’t take place, the giver gets the ring back because the contract was broken.
Contact a Separation Lawyer in Delaware to Determine Ownership of Your Engagement Ring
If you and your ex cannot agree on who should take the ring after a breakup, contact one of our separation lawyers at Doroshow, Pasquale, Krawitz, and Bhaya. We can help you get what’s legally yours.