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Who Keeps the Engagement Ring in a Break-up?

An engagement ring is a symbol of a promise to marry. In Texas, it is considered a conditional gift – the gift is not complete until the wedding takes place. Once the couple is married, the gift is complete and the ring is the separate property of the recipient.

For convenience, I will use examples in which a man gives an engagement ring to a woman when they decide to get married. The rules apply the same regardless of whether a woman gives it to a man, a man to a man, or a woman to a woman. I’m just using “he” and “she” instead of “Party A” and Party B”.

In general, the person NOT at fault in the break-up keeps the ring. If one person cheats, the other keeps the ring.

If she changes her mind, she returns the ring. If he decides that it was a mistake to propose, then she gets to keep the ring.

If the decision to break up is mutual, then the ring goes back to the giver.   So if he and she decide together that it is a bad idea to move forward, she must give back the ring.

Things get a little more complex if the ring is a family heirloom, or if it has been bought on credit. If he gives her a ring that is an heirloom and he breaks off the engagement, in most cases she would have the right to retain the ring. She might agree to sell it back to him at a price suggested by a professional appraiser, but she can not be forced to sell it back. If there are outstanding payments on the ring, the person who gets the ring gets the payments. If she keeps the ring, she needs to make all the remaining payments.

Disputes over engagement rings are usually resolved privately. If not, a letter from an attorney to the person wrongfully holding the ring often will be enough to show him or her the legal perspective and leads to return of the ring. The few cases still unresolved at that point usually go to small claims court or county court, depending on the value of the ring. A family lawyer is recommended for actions in county court.




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