Do You Have To Give Back The Ring? Legally?


How a broken engagement can end up in court -- all over a ring.

By Mary Schwager, Consumer Watchdog, for

You know what Valentine's Day means for some couples -- on February 15th there’s going to be a lot of Facebook relationship statuses changing to “engaged”.

But what happens if after he pops the question, after you say “yes”, after the excitement dies down and reality sets in? What happens if...well, let’s say things just don’t work out? The wedding becomes a no-go?

What do you do with the engagement ring? Do you have to give the rock back? Even if he was a real heel? This is where love turns into a matter of law!

Attorney Larry Bodine, Editor-in-Chief of, helps sort out this rocky situation with a little legal Q and A.

GalTime: What’s the deal, do former fiancés have to give back the ring?  Does it matter who broke off the relationship?

Attorney Larry Bodine: In addition to all of the emotional pain that goes along with a broken engagement, there’s also the nagging question of what happens to the ring. Who is legally entitled to the ring varies by state law – and no two states handle it quite the same way.

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The majority of state courts including New York, Minnesota, Iowa and New Mexico have ruled that an engagement ring is a conditional gift, and if the engagement is broken off, the ring must be returned to the giver regardless of what happened.

Some states including California, Texas and Washington side with the person who got dumped – and legally that person gets to keep the ring. Montana mandates that the ring is a gift, and once given, it cannot be taken back from the recipient.

GalTime: So cases over “who gets to keep the diamond” have ended up in court?

Attorney Larry Bodine: People can end up in court for just about anything – and this is no exception. If you’re thinking of breaking off an engagement, you should ask your lawyer the following questions first:

1. What's the law in my state on who gets the wedding ring when an engagement is broken?

2. What can I do if my fiancé moves out of state after calling off the wedding and takes the ring?

3. What might happen if I sell an engagement ring after the engagement is called off?

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GalTime: Just how awful have these jilted romance cases gotten?

Attorney Larry Bodine: Bitterness is bad news in a relationship and it’s pure poison in court. Believe it or not, several states allow lawsuits breach of the promise to marry. Typically the jilted lover sues for incurred costs of the wedding and emotional distress. Many states prohibit these cases so it’s best to contact a divorce lawyer for advice. Matthew Campbell and Ashley Robinson got engaged in 2005, broke up in 2006 fought in court in South Carolina for six years over their broken engagement and ownership of the ring. At trial, the jury ruled that the breakup was his fault but awarded her no damages. An appellate court ordered a new trial. 

GalTime:: From a legal standpoint if an engagement is broken, what would you advise couples?

Attorney Larry Bodine: A broken engagement is a terrible heartbreak, but at least you don’t have to go through a divorce too. It’s better to find out about that your relationship was doomed before it became legally binding. Do yourself a favor and make a breakup clear-cut, complete and permanent. People who become obsessed with their exes can be charged as stalkers, and nobody wants that.

What do you think? Should women have to give back the ring if the engagement is broken?

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.