He asked her to marry him. She said yes. But something happened before they could say “I Do” and the couple is a couple no more.
So, who gets to keep the ring?
It’s fairly uncommon for a husband to ask for the wedding ring back in a divorce . The ring was a gift. It belongs to her. And barring any extenuating circumstances that might suggest otherwise, the courts aren’t going to take that gift away.
But when a couple hasn’t made it past the altar yet, the laws regarding the ring become a little more complex.
Yes, the ring is still considered to be a gift, one that he gave and she accepted. But many courts consider the gift to be conditional – i.e., “I’ll give you this ring if you’ll marry me.” When the marriage doesn’t happen, the condition hasn’t been fulfilled.
So, does that mean she has to give the ring back?
That all depends on the judge and the laws of your state. The general consensus is that the circumstances of the breakup should play an important role in determining who keeps the ring. As a result, many courts use a fault-based process that relies on who broke off the engagement and why.
If for example, he ended the engagement while she was ready to go forward, many courts will award the ring to the bride-to-be. Infidelity, abuse or other offensive behavior could change this ruling however and if it’s determined that the bride was at fault, the ring could go back to the groom. This line of thinking would work in the reverse order as well, giving the groom the ring if the bride ended the engagement, unless the bride could show just cause through wrongdoings on the part of her fiancé.
This at-fault mentality represents the mainstream majority but it is not consistent in all 50 states. There are some courts that employ the same no-fault process that can be sought in a divorce, ruling that the ring should always be returned to the donor (the would-be groom) regardless of who broke the engagement or the reasons behind it.