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Tilting the Scales Business Issues with a Legal Slant

Return of an Engagement Ring Before Marriage

Posted in Family Issues, Property Issues

Brad is madly in love with Jennifer. After dating her for a year, Brad proposes to Jennifer with a 5 carat Leo Diamond ring. Now, after only a few months, the engagement is off. Who gets the ring?

If Brad and Jennifer break-up (and there is no written agreement) the keeper of the engagement ring is decided by “the fault-based conditional-gift rule.” Much better than a rock/paper/scissors contest, this rule states that a gift delivered by a guy expecting to become a groom (i.e., an engagement ring) is given subject to the couple getting married.

Therefore, if Brad breaks the engagement because he decides he’s really in love with Angelina–not Jennifer–then Jennifer may keep the ring. On the other hand, if Jennifer gets a case of cold feet and breaks off the engagement, she has to give the ring back.

If both Brad and Jennifer agree to break up, then all bets are off, and they must return each other’s gifts. If Brad and Jennifer do actually “tie the knot,” all gifts “exchanged in the contemplation of marriage are the absolute property of the recipient.”

For more information about the ownership of engagement rings and the law in Texas affecting other gifts before marriage, see Curtis v. Anderson,106 S.W.3d 251 (Tex. App. Austin 2003). As for all those other gifts that your family and friends bought when Brad and Jennifer got engaged, please consult Ms. Manners.