Breakup Law: Who Gets to Keep the Engagement Ring?

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On the heels of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston’s announcement to call off the wedding … again, we find ourselves asking, Who gets to keep that $8,000 ring?

After ending it with Jake, The Bachelor’s Vienna had to return the ring to ABC. But what happens in the real world?

Ending an engagement isn’t driving your convertible the wrong way down the freeway, but it could land you in legal hot water. So if you find yourself taking off that diamond, read on, because you may not even know you’re breaking the law.

You might be surprised to learn what an engagement ring means in a court of law. When your lover gets down on one knee and you accept the proposal, it’s like entering into a contract. And who breaks it off may not matter, but where you live does.

Just like every American Idol judge has his/her own opinion (however idiotic it may be), every state has a different law on who gets to keep the ring. So if you don’t want to trade in that ring for a hefty lawsuit and added heartache, make sure you find out the law where you live. Here are the three key differences by state:

California, Texas, and Washington: The person who was dumped gets the ring.

New York, Minnesota, Iowa, New Mexico, and the majority of states: The ring must be returned to the giver, no matter what happened.

Montana: The ring is a gift and once a gift is given, it cannot be taken back.

And in every other state: If you get engaged to someone who hasn’t finalized their divorce yet and you break it off, the ring is yours. That person loses any right to the ring. It’s illegal for them to enter into an engagement if they’re not legally single.

What happens if you don’t follow the law? Your ex has the right to sue you. And if they claim they don’t want the ring back, you should get it in writing. Even a clean break can get uglier than your ex soon-to-be-mother-in-law. They may decide they want revenge when they see you out with someone new. Of course, avoiding the courts is the easiest way to go. Maybe there is something to buying your own ring.

A relationship breakup is stressful enough. We’re here to help you get to know your rights to avoid unnecessary drama and bounce back quicker.

Keep in mind, many legal cases are not cut and dry, and new court cases can change existing decisions. If your situation is more complicated, you should consult a lawyer.

Check back soon for the next part in our series Relationship Breakup Laws You Need to Know.

Have you survived a broken engagement? What happened to the ring?

By Morgan Vines for


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