With the average price of an engagement ring hovering around $7,000 and many rings being about the price of a new car, it’s not surprising that Pasadena family law lawyers often encounter couples fighting over who gets to keep the engagement ring when the relationship goes sour.
California considers engagement rings an implied conditional gift. A woman who accepts the ring signifies that she is intending to marry the man who gave it to her at some point in the future. If the man breaks off the engagement, he doesn’t get the ring back. If the woman breaks off the engagement, he’s within his legal rights to request that the ring be returned because she’s not living up to the conditions with which the gift was given.
Other states have different standards when it comes to engagement rings, however. New York, for example, says engagement rings are conditional gifts and must always be returned regardless of who calls off the engagement. But you still need to be careful what you say when it comes to breaking things off with your ex. A recent New York case made headlines last week when Louis J. Billittier, Jr. was told that his former fiance could keep her $53,000 engagement ring. When he broke off the engagement via text message, he added "Plus you get a $50,000 parting ring. Enough for a down payment on a house." Even though he later claimed the text was meant as a joke, the court ruled the message was proof that the ring was a gift that didn’t need to be returned.
If you’ve married and divorced, the wife gets to keep the engagement ring because it’s considered a gift that is her personal property. Women who have children from the marriage sometimes save the ring to pass down as a family heirloom, but this is not legally required. For this reason, many lawyers discourage using rings with sentimental value in the groom’s family as engagement rings.
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