Woman returning wedding ring to her ex-husband

If a Wedding Gets Cancelled, Who Keeps the Ring?

For one reason or another, some engaged couples never make it to their wedding day. In these difficult circumstances, couples are often left to wonder: what happens to the ring? Laws vary from state to state so although it may seem logical to assume that the person who gave the ring is entitled to get it back, this is not always the case.

Most U.S. states have laws in place specifically dealing with engagement rings or other items given during a marriage proposal. Depending on where a person lives, there are three ways to determine whether or not your fiancé(e) has to return the ring if the wedding is cancelled:

  1. Who broke off the engagement? Sometimes, fault matters. California is an “implied gift” state that takes fault into consideration when determining what should happen with an engagement ring. For example, if your fiancée breaks off the engagement or if you both decide mutually to end the engagement, she will have to return the ring. Likewise, if you break off the engagement, your fiancée typically gets to keep the ring unless you can make a compelling case against it (for example, if you called the engagement off after discovering your fiancée was unfaithful).
  2. The ring was an outright gift. In some states, like Montana, for example, engagement rings are treated as gifts. Once the gift is given, it cannot be taken back. All that must be proven is that: a) a gift was intended to be made, b) the ring was actually given, and c) the ring was accepted.
  3. The ring was a conditional gift. In the majority of states, an engagement ring is treated as a conditional gift which means that it is given with the expectation that a wedding will happen in the future. If the wedding never actually happens the gift has failed and the ring must be returned to the giver no matter who broke off the engagement. New York and Pennsylvania are two states that follow this rule.

While only the first rule applies in California, it is important to be familiar with these guidelines so that you can actively protect your rights wherever you find yourself. It is best to contact an Irvine attorney at Buncher Family Law to pursue your options.

Posted in High Asset Divorce, Property Division, Transitioning.