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

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
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… Read more »

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.


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

Dave W

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.


MmL, I’m assuming you’ve looked into this, so I have a question:

Let’s say two parties make a contract. Party A makes a down-payment to Party B. Party B makes a good-faith effort to see it through, but Party A flakes/fucks up/can’t or won’t perform. Obviously Party A forfeits their down payment – that’s what a down payment is. Collateral that protects one party from getting screwed.

In a case of verifiable infidelity on the would-be groom’s part, why wouldn’t the bride get to keep the ring? Marriage is a contract, and that’s her down payment, the way I see it.

Madamoiselle L

A PS3 player or a TV doesn’t hold the expectation of an engagement ring, in the eyes of the Law, it’s still “A Gift” and the give doesn’t get it back in the event of a break up.

There’s a way to avoid this NEVER give someone you don’t trust fully an expensive gift. Nor accept an engagement ring from a person of the same kind.