Heartbroken Fiancee Fought the Law and the Law Won

Late last year we published an excerpt from our friend Robin’s book (So Sue Me, Jackass! Avoiding Legal Pitfalls That Can Come Back to Bite You at Work, at Home, and at Play) about who gets to keep the ring after a broken engagement. The lawerly response? “While common courtesy dictates that the ring should remain with the dumpee, the law in most jurisdictions dictates that if a ring is given in contemplation of marriage, the woman doesn’t take title to the ring until the marriage takes place. That means if the marriage doesn’t take place, the ring goes back to the giver.”

Now, if someone had said to us, okay, but what if the engagement is being called off because the guy cheated on the woman and she never wants to see his sorry face again? We’d have said these were extenuating circumstances: hells yeah she should keep the ring!

Which is why we’re just lowly advice columnists and someone else gets to be the judge. Because, as a judge recently ruled in a New York case, “Fault in the breakup of an engagement is irrelevant.” In other words, hand the ring over, sucker.

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9 Comments on "Heartbroken Fiancee Fought the Law and the Law Won"

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Madamoiselle L
5 years 7 months ago

Now, if we could only get our shower and wedding gifts back from couples who divorce less than a year after the wedding!


Madamoiselle L
5 years 7 months ago

Johnny, the Engagement Ring, at least legally, isn’t a “down payment” (like a dowry or something) A ring something given, as a verbal contract “in expectation” of an event.

It is unique, as few other things in our society have the same “value” there are no more Dowries, no more legal cases for “Breach of Promise” Years ago, if a man made it clear he was going to marry a woman and backed out, her FATHER (or brother, as women couldn’t bring legal suit) could sue the husband to-be as the girl’s “reputation” was now soiled. It would be more hard for her to find a mate, now that she had already “belonged” to a man, and her family had a Financial Stake in her marrying and could lose income if she was now NOT able to find a husband who would take a “used” woman. Not so anymore.

As that isn’t the case anymore, there are no more “Breach of Promise” cases, but there are still Engagement Ring verbal contracts. I think jewelry stores should let people KNOW this, but it may lead to fewer rings being bought, so they don’t.

Karen, again, as it isn’t a “Gift” who “fucked up” isn’t the issue. Also, it would take a Law Suit to DETERMINE WHO was “at fault.” (BOTH parties who were petty enough to care would say the other one was at fault.) Seeing as many states have No Fault Divorce, I see no reason to go back to “fault driven engagement break ups.”

WHY would someone WANT an engagement ring from a failed relationship? As people say, KEEP THE RECEIPT! And women, have the ovaries to just give the damn ring BACK. Don’t be a harpy. 😉 Not only is it the LAW, it makes you look like much more of a healthy, independent, non-grudge bearing woman. You don’t need a Souvenir or a “payment” from a bad relationship. (Do you?) You’re a Grown Woman. It is too reminiscent of Sex as Commodity, from where I see it. Just give the damn ring back.

He doesn’t OWE you jewelry, or anything else of monetary value, even if you think he WAS at fault. That isn’t my opinion, it’s the Law in most states.

5 years 7 months ago

In the past and engagement was given to a woman as a promise of marriage and if this promise was broken then the woman would keep the ring as a sort of compensation so she could sell it or whatever. So really she should have been able to keep the ring as it was the guy who fucked up not her.

5 years 7 months ago

Yes indeed, on the bias. Good point on engagement not being a contract in any court other than that of popular opinion.

Dave W
5 years 7 months ago

A little bit of anti-marriage bias there Johnny?
Marriage may be a legal contract, but an engagement is not, nor is it a deal with a contractor.
If you wanna talk a guy friend out of getting engaged, looks like the argument that she could legally keep the ring if things go south won’t fly. However, since some guys don’t have the balls to take their ex to small claims court, you might get traction with that reasoning after all.
For me, I’d follow Em&Lo when they say keep the receipt.