The Wedding Has Been Called Off—Now Who Gets The Ring?

By Madeleine Luckel
Photo: Bridget Flohe on Unsplash

A broken engagement is generally a sad event and, understandably, it’s not the type of thing people like to discuss. As a result, when the dissolution of a relationship does come about, most of us remain unclear on who ultimately gets to keep the ring. Many might assume that the person being broken up with pockets the rock, but that isn’t necessarily the case. In reality, the question of who the ring stays with is regulated by laws that vary greatly from state to state.

Many states, including New York, consider broken engagements to be no-fault cases. In other words, the person who gave the ring gets it back. This is because legally in these states the ring is considered to be a conditional gift. (As in, it was given on the condition of marriage.) Other states that take this conditional gift approach include Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and New Mexico.

But, in New York, there are also some loopholes around this, as discussed earlier this year in this fascinating The New York Times article. For example, if the ring was given as a gift for another occasion, such as a birthday, or was intended as a financial payment, the court may not necessarily award the ring back to the giver. Another exception is when one party is found to be already married to another person—although we sincerely hope that this is a rare occurrence!

However, California, Washington, and Texas do not necessarily regard engagement rings as conditional gifts. In these states, a ring is instead an implied conditional gift. In short, whoever gets dumped should end up with it.

This legal clause was memorably illustrated in 2016 by none other than Mariah Carey. In March of that year, Careys then-boyfriend James Packer proposed to the singer with a 35-carat diamond. Just over seven months later, Packer reportedly called it quits on the last day of their vacation in Greece. Thanks to California law, where Packer lived and where Carey had moved, as well as the fact that Carey was the one who was broken up with, she apparently didn’t have to give back the ring. And, after it was all said and done, Carey was in fact seen wearing the engagement ring on her right hand.

Once upon a time, Kim Kardashian was also reportedly in a somewhat similar, but post-marriage, position. When Kardashian split from her then-husband Kris Humphries, she reportedly didn’t want to give back her ring. The piece of jewelry, which was estimated to be worth $2 million, was however apparently included in the couple’s prenup—which would have been the determining factor in this case.

But enough with case studies set in California. Montana is another story all together. In fact, it’s the only state where engagement rings are considered to be unconditional gifts. As in, the recipient of the ring gets to keep it, no matter what the extenuating circumstances may be or who called off the wedding. Everyone who’s about to get engaged take note!