Who gets the engagement ring if the wedding doesn’t take place?

UPDATED: Dec 15, 2011

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Who gets the engagement ring if the wedding doesn’t take place?

The engagement took place in Canada but we are US residents.

Asked on December 15, 2011 under Family Law, New York


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The courts of most jurisdictions consider an engagement ring to be what is known as a "conditional gift"; That means it is a gift given on condition that a future event occur (in your case the ring was given on the condition that a marriage takes place). If the event does not occur, then the donor has the right to get the gift back (i.e. the ring must be given back).

That having been said, in a situation such as this fault does matter. Most courts reason that it isn't fair that the donor should get the ring back if the donee stood ready to go ahead with the marriage and the donor broke it off (as it would be unfair for the donee to keep the ring if the engagement was broken because of the donee's unfaithfulness or other wrongdoing).

So depending on the details of the case (which you did not provide), you may or may not have to return it.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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