It’s that moment. He is down on one knee. She is holding her breath. A ring is about to come out of his pocket and be offered to her…but is it really hers to keep? Well, that all depends. Although the laws are different from state to state, there are generally two questions which determine who gets the ring: Who was at fault in the breakup or divorce, and whether or not the ring was a gift. Even the second question has its own conditions. For example, even if the ring is determined to have been a gift, was it a conditional gift?  In most cases, the courts will not order a gift to be returned upon a breakup or divorce. However, if the gift was conditional, (such as the condition that the couple marry or stay married) then the courts may order the ring returned when the conditions are not met. Then there are the family heirlooms. If the ring was an heirloom, then it will most likely be returned to the family from which it came, no matter who was at fault in a breakup or divorce. Boston Divorce Lawyer Doug Lovenberg is knowledgeable in Engagement Ring Law, and can help answer any questions you may have about getting the ring back in a divorce.


Is the Engagement Ring a Conditional Gift?


While the rules and laws vary from state to state, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the engagement ring is considered to be a conditional gift. The term “conditional gift” means that the gift was given with certain conditions that must be met. In the case of an engagement ring, the condition would be that the two parties get married. Because the ring is a conditional gift, that means that if the wedding is called off, then ownership of the ring returns to the giver. However, there are circumstances which can change this outcome should the battle over the ring make its way into a courtroom.


Getting the Ring Back Before the Wedding

If the ring is given on a holiday, such as a birthday or Christmas, then the courts could decide that it was a holiday gift, not a conditional gift, and the recipient would retain ownership in the event that the couple does not marry. Ownership of the ring could also be determined by the reason that the couple broke up. If the giver of the ring cheated or was abusive, for example, or is at fault for the breakup in some other way, then the ring stays with the recipient. If the couple mutually decide to end the engagement without marrying, then the ring goes back to the giver.


Getting the Ring Back After a Divorce

Once the marriage has taken place, the rules change a bit. At this point, it does not matter whether the ring was considered a conditional gift or not, since the conditions were met and the two parties were married. According to Massachusetts law, once the couple is married, then ownership of an engagement ring and/or wedding ring stays with the recipient. The behavior of either party has no bearing on ownership of the ring. Judges in Massachusetts, however, have a great deal of discretion when it comes to division of property, so, in many cases, the courts could decide to return the ring or rings to the giver, especially if they were of significant value. If you are in the process of a breakup or divorce and have questions concerning ownership of the rings, call Boston Divorce Attorney Doug Lovenberg at 617-973-9950.