Law Offices of Anne Fokstuen


Family Law Today


Who Gets The Engagement Ring

An engagement ring is a beautiful thing and often it’s also quite valuable. Sometimes it’s the most valuable property that a couple has. So if the engagement or marriage ends, then the question becomes, what happens to the ring and who does it belong to. The rules of etiquette provide that a ring should always be returned if the engagement is broken but the rule of law does not always come to the same result.

The answer to the question of what happens to the ring when the engagement ends is that it depends on where it ended, as each state looks at things slightly differently.

In California it depends on who ended the engagement. If you break off the engagement after receiving the ring then you have to return the engagement ring you received. If the person who gave you the ring ends the engagement, then you get to keep the ring. But if you got engaged on your birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day, the days when its traditional to receive a gift, then most courts will find that the ring was an outright gift and you don’t have to return the ring.

Many states look at engagement rings as a conditional gift, or a gift that depends on the fulfillment of the condition of marriage. So only if you actually get married will you get to keep the engagement ring. If the engagement ends, the condition has not been fulfilled and the ring must be returned to the giver. But if instead, you get engaged in Montana or Kansas, then the ring is your to keep, no matter what happens to the engagement.

Once you are married, the engagement ring is your to keep. If you end up getting divorced, the court will consider the engagement ring to be your separate property and your to keep, not community property which you have to share in the divorce. Only in case there’s a premarital agreement or a settlement agreement which provides that the giver will receive the engagement ring in case of a divorce, will the ring not be yours to keep.

Anne Fokstuen