An engagement ring can be a major financial investment. Some people even take out a loan that they have to pay back for months or years to be able to afford one. They could invest thousands of dollars in it, and, especially if they are young, it may be one of the most expensive things that they have ever purchased.
This can become an issue if the couple later decides to end their relationship and get a divorce. They may argue over who gets to keep the ring. The spouse who was given the ring may argue that they should be allowed to keep it since it was a gift that they received. The other spouse may argue that they should actually get it back because they are the one who purchased it – plus, they only gave it as a gift because they thought they were going to stay married.
Treatment of a conditional gift under Massachusetts law
The way the courts in Massachusetts typically look at an engagement ring is that it is a conditional gift. It is not necessarily an outright gift. In re: an engagement ring, getting married is the condition that has to be met before a recipient can keep this gift without qualification.
If the couple breaks off the engagement before they get married, and the person who purchased the ring is not at fault for ending that relationship, then courts have ruled that they can get the ring back. They never got married, they didn’t do anything to cause the breakdown of the relationship and they should not also lose their financial investment.
However, the person who received the ring may be able to keep it if the giver was at fault for the breakup. The person who received the gift still intended to honor their commitment to get married, but something outside of their control – like a partner’s affair – ended things between them.
Additionally, if the couple is getting divorced, that means that the condition has already been met. They have already gotten married. The owner does not have to return the engagement ring simply because that marriage ended in a divorce.
A complex situation
When couples get divorced, financial issues like this can become very complicated. It’s important for couples to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law in order to make informed choices. Seeking legal guidance can be a good way to achieve this clarity.