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Engagement Ring - Gift or Community Property?

We have all heard, or seen on Youtube, the creative and romantic deliveries of an engagement ring. Stories of a ring being tied around a dozen roses, or being baked inside a cake, or even being delivered by the family dog. Engagements are days to cherish. The same cannot be said if Mr. Right later breaks off the engagement. Which brings us to our legal issue, who owns the engagement ring if a wedding is canceled?

Most women will claim the ring was a gift and look to keep the ring. While most men, still having twelve installment payments to make, would like to see the ring returned. From a legal perspective, who owns the engagement ring is pretty set in stone.

Ring Returned

Although an engagement ring is often thought of as a gift, divorce attorneys will tell you that the majority of courts view it as only a “conditional gift”. The ring was given on the condition that a marriage will take place in the future. If the marriage does not take place, the condition was not met and therefore the ring should be returned. A few creative family law attorneys have argued that the gift was given in exchange for their acceptance of the proposal of marriage, but even this crafty argument fails in court.

A few courts have taken into consideration whether Prince Charming had any “fault” with why the engagement was broken. Now, the courts are not looking for issues like cold feet, or he felt the grass was greener somewhere else. They are looking for criminal misconduct, fraud, or domestic violence. If the marriage is canceled due to extreme misconduct of the man and no fault of the woman, those courts may allow her to keep it.

Keeping Her Diamonds

When the couple gets married, the condition upon which the ring was given is met. All the terms of the contract have been fulfilled and the engagement ring, which was a gift, is now the sole and separate property of the recipient.

From a legal stance, gifts are considered separate property. If the couple is not able to stay “happily married ever after”, the ring is not treated as community property. The ring would be the sole property of the wife, to do with as she wishes.

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