Should you give the engagement ring back if you call off the wedding? | The Tylt
Should you give the engagement ring back if you call off the wedding?
According to the New York Times' Jane Gordon Julien, the question of returning or keeping an engagement ring is a matter of state law. Most states agree that in the event of an untimely breakup, the ring should be returned to the person who gave it:
The New York legal system deems, in essence, that a broken engagement is no one’s fault, and the ring should be given back to the giver, with few exceptions. Most states have adopted that approach.
Julien highlights the precedent for returning the ring, which was set in the 1997 Heiman v. Parrish case:
There, the Kansas Supreme Court decided that no matter who broke the engagement, the $9,033 ring should be given back to the giver. “Ordinarily, the ring should be returned to the donor, regardless of fault,” the court found.
If an engagement doesn't work out, the ring should absolutely be returned to the proposer—who likely spent a substantial portion of savings on this all-important piece of jewelry. The ring is given as a promise of marriage, and if the marriage never happens, the ring should be returned to the giver.
But even Julien concedes that engagement ring law is not consistent across all states:
[Montana] classifies the ring as an unconditional gift. The recipient keeps it....California and Texas take a middle-of-the road approach: the recipient of the ring is expected to return it, unless the giver called off the engagement.
As an "unconditional gift," the engagement ring belongs to the recipient from the moment it is given. If the engagement itself doesn't pan out, it is the recipient's decision to give back, keep, or sell the ring. If they'd like to keep it, they should be able to. As Slater and Gordon lawyer Heather McKinnon tells Harper's Bazaar's Grace O'Neill:
"Once you give something, you can't take it back."