Rules of Engagement

If an engagement is broken off, does the giver of the ring get it back? It depends on where you live and the circumstances surrounding the engagement.

A majority of states, including New Jersey, follow a no-fault rule—regardless of who called the whole thing off, the giver of the ring is entitled to have it back. Courts in New Jersey view an engagement ring as a conditional gift—the receiver can keep it on the condition there is a resulting marriage. It may not be romantic, but a marriage proposal is essentially an oral contract to marry. However, if the promise falls through, the giver gets the ring back, regardless of whose fault it is that a marriage never resulted.

Something to keep in mind: after you get down on one knee to propose, you may end up on both knees begging for the ring back if you propose on Christmas (or Hanukkah, a birthday, or Valentine’s Day). If the receiver wants to keep the ring, he or she may take the giver of the ring to court and allege that the engagement ring was intended as an unconditional gift-no “I do” required. If you give an engagement ring on a traditional gift-giving holiday, it might be harder to refute that it was actually a conditional gift.

Date Published: April 4, 2017


Written by: Alexandra Rigden