Carolann M. Aschoff, P.C.

Divorce and broken engagement -- not that different

When an engaged couple decides to break the engagement, it is not all that different from the end of a marriage. Both decisions go hand-in-hand with feelings of loss, emotional pain and turmoil. Like in the case of divorce, certain difficult decisions must be made during an emotionally taxing time.  

One major question a New Jersey couple that is breaking off an engagement must answer is: who gets to keep the ring? There is no easy and obvious answer to the question, as courts differ in their rulings on the matter. How a court may rule depends greatly on the court's view of what constitutes a gift, while the reasons for ending the engagement may also play a role.

According to the law, a gift is something that the giver intended to give as a gift, that was actually given to the receiver by the giver, and which the receiver accepted. When all three conditions have been satisfied, courts tend to rule that the person receiving the gift may keep it. However, engagement rings are treated differently as the majority of courts see the ring as a gift to which a condition is attached.  

As the name implies, a conditional gift is something given in expectation of a future action or event taking place. Should this condition not be met, the giver may have a right to get the ring back. While many may argue that saying yes to the proposal is in fact meeting the condition, most courts maintain that marriage is the expected outcome to be met and award the ring to the giver, no matter the reasons for the end of the engagement.

While the matter seems clear-cut, there are certain circumstances in which a court may consider giving the receiver the ring. Reasons may include cases where the ring can be seen as a form of compensation or where the courts take a fault-based approach. Like in a divorce, obtaining advice from an experienced New Jersey family law lawyer may assist in clarifying the position of who gets the ring, especially when an amicable solution to the problem seems impossible.   

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens to the Engagement Ring in a Broken Engagement?", Accessed on Feb. 21, 2018

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