Can I keep the ring if we break up?
An engagement ring is both a symbol of love and a significant investment/asset. As a divorce attorney, I am often asked what happens to the ring in the event the relationship ends. Can the woman keep the ring or can her fiancé demand it be returned. AS with many legal questions, the answer I must give is “It depends” As will be discussed below, the timing of the break up is the key factor in what happens to the engagement ring.
Engagement rings are a “conditional gift”
A conditional gift? What does that mean? Under NJ law, engagement rings are considered a conditional gift. This means that certain conditions must be met in order for the recipient to have the right to keep the ring. Given to signify the engagement and intent to marry, the wedding is the condition that must be satisfied in order for ownership to leally transfer to the recipient. Here is where the timing of the breakup is critical. If the relationship ends BEFORE the wedding takes place, the condition has not been satisfied and the ring is to be returned. It does not matter which party ended the engagement. On the other hand (no pun intended) if the wedding does take place and the relationship then ends, the condition HAS been satisfied and the wife can keep the ring.
Of all the issues in family law, this one is pretty clear cut. If you are using a family heirloom as an engagement ring, the law can lead to disappointing results and you would b well served by considering a prenuptial agreement that deals with the return of the ring in the event of a divorce.
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