Who Gets the Engagement Ring?

Getting engaged is a joyous time. The new couple faces an exciting future together and can start planning for their life right away. The engagement ring is the ubiquitous symbol of the engagement. In many cases, the engagement ring is a significantly expensive piece of jewelry. In the unhappy event that the relationship ends, it is common for the couple to ask, “who gets the engagement ring?”

The first inquiry to answer this question is when did the relationship break down? In some states, if the engagement falls apart before the marriage, the court will look to who is at fault in the break up. The person not at fault gets to keep the ring. However, this is not the case in Minnesota. An engagement ring is considered to be a “conditional gift,” with the condition being marriage. If the condition of marriage is not fulfilled, the gift must be returned. Moreover, case law provides that the person who received the engagement ring is always responsible for returning the ring, regardless of whether or not the giver is at fault in the break-down of the relationship. Case law determined that because the Minnesota legislature has taken a no-fault approach with divorce, a similar approach needs to be applied with the break-up of an engagement.

If the parties did get married, the result is very different. Once the condition of marriage has bene fulfilled, the ring becomes the non-marital property of the recipient. This means that not only does the recipient not have to return the ring, the spouse who gave the ring is not entitled to a return of any portion of the value of the ring in the division of the property in the divorce, unless the parties have provided otherwise in a valid pre-nuptial agreement. There is one small caveat to this, however. It is a common tradition for couples to upgrade or otherwise change a ring to mark important occasions, such as the birth of a child or a landmark anniversary. If this is the case, the increased value of the ring as a result of the upgrade is marital property, although the original value remains non-marital property.

If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to marital and non-marital property, including engagement rings, contact us today for an appointment. We can review your case and talk about your options.

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