Who Gets To Keep The Engagement Ring?

Who gets to keep the engagement ring

Breaking up is hard to do, but for many couples, figuring out who gets to keep the engagement ring as their relationship or marriage ends can sometimes become contentious.

Should the recipient be able to keep this most precious (and often very expensive) gift? Or is the giver of the ring entitled to a return?

Existing case law in New Jersey removes the guesswork on these questions. As clarified by court cases such as Aronow v. Silver, 233 N.J. Super 344 (1989), an engagement ring is considered a conditional gift, given “in contemplation of marriage,” meaning that the ring is given on the condition that the parties will get married in the future. If the engaged couple does indeed get married, this condition is met, and the ring is then considered the separate property of the recipient spouse.

Who keeps the engagement ring in a divorce? 

In the event the couple decides to divorce later on, the status of the ring as separate property does not change. As Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group’s founder and managing partner, Bari Z. Weinberger, explained in a recent interview for NJ 101.5 FM, “Should that couple get divorced … (the ring) will not be subject to equitable distribution going forward… the ring itself, or the value of the ring, won’t be divided in any way.” In other words, the recipient gets to keep the ring as a memento or keepsake, and if they do decide to sell the ring in the future, they also get to keep all the proceeds. 

Who keeps the engagement ring if the couple never married? 

If a couple gets engaged, an engagement ring is given, but the couple never marries and ultimately ends their relationship, the law is also clear: the condition of the gift (marriage) was not met, and so in New Jersey, the engagement ring must be returned, no matter which partner called off the wedding. 

The landmark court ruling on this is Aronow v. Silver. It revolved around a couple who broke off their engagement three days before they got married. There was a dispute about whether she broke it off or he did. In determining who kept the ring, the courts said plainly: “It does not matter who broke the engagement.” The engagement ring needed to be returned to the giver because it was a conditional gift based on the prospect of a marriage that was no longer going to happen.

What if the ring was sold after the engagement was called off? In this situation, the original giver of the ring would be entitled to the return of its monetary value. 

Something else you need to know? Who gets to keep the ring is also a negotiable item. Some couples may include language around it in a prenuptial agreement. For example, a prenup could include a clause stating the engagement ring will be sold and proceeds split between spouses in the event of a divorce. In cases where the couple calls off the wedding, but the recipient wishes to keep the ring, some kind of “buy out” or payment plan could also be arranged; the giver of the ring may also decide to not ask for it back.

One last piece of advice? Be careful what you say in the heat of the moment about the ring. In New York, a man who broke up with his financée and flippantly texted his ex that she was getting “a $50,000 parting gift,” actually had that text used against him in court as evidence that he had gifted her the ring.

Splitting up and wondering about the status of non-engagement jewelry and other gifts? Read our blog: Bling it on: Why you shouldn’t fight over valuables — and how to avoid the battle.

Getting a divorce? Thinking about establishing a prenuptial agreement? Have other family law concerns? Schedule a consultation to get answers to all your questions from one of our experienced family law attorneys. Safeguard your future. Call us today at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.

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