Who Keeps the Ring?

You were engaged.  The date was set.  The flowers were ordered.  The church was booked.  You were so happy!  Everything was going fine and then you hit a little snag.  The snag turned out to be something so big you two couldn’t get past it and now the wedding is off.

Who gets to keep the engagement ring?

Under Wisconsin law, an engagement ring is a conditional gift.  The condition is marriage.  If the marriage does not take place, the ring must be returned.

It doesn’t matter why you broke up.  It doesn’t matter who broke it off.  It doesn’t matter how long you were engaged or wore the ring.  If you didn’t get married, then the ring must be returned to the one who bought it.

Every time you hear people talking about this subject, inevitable exceptions come up.  “Well, what if the ring was given as a Christmas gift?  Or what if it was my birthday gift?  Or what if it was given on another holiday for that holiday?  Or what if he told me he didn’t want it back, but now he is suing me for it and I already sold it?”  So, what happens if you can establish that the ring was a Christmas gift, for example?  Does that pull any weight in Wisconsin?

It is a rare exception, and you will have to consult a lawyer if you feel you fall under one of the exceptions.  There have been cases where a court has allowed the woman to keep the ring if it was, indeed, given instead of other gifts at Christmas, or if it was refused when she tried to return it and she relied on that in selling it, but now he wants the ring back.

States vary, so consult someone in your state about the laws.  Generally, most states do consider an engagement ring a conditional gift.  Miss Manners would say it’s proper etiquette to return the engagement ring, regardless of who called off the wedding.  Aside from legal considerations, I’d ask my client why they want to keep the ring he bought for her.  Is it revenge?  How are you going to feel every time you look at it?

Wisconsin residents, if you have a situation where you are unsure what to do with an engagement ring, or you feel you are entitled to keep the ring or if your ex-fiancée refuses to return the engagement ring and you don’t know what to do to get it back, I would be happy to set up a consultation to see if I can help you resolve the dispute.

Don’t want to go to court and you have more than just an engagement ring to hash out?  I also mediate wedding call-off disputes.  Call for a consultation.

This article is for general information purposes only.  It is not intended as legal advice and it does not constitute establishment of an attorney-client relationship with anyone who reads it.  Keep in mind that the law changes frequently based on legislation and case law.  If you have a legal issue that relates to this article’s subject matter, please consult with a licensed attorney to determine your individual rights and to clarify the law with respect to your particular set of facts.  If you live in another state, please consult a licensed attorney in your state.  Dana Boyle is licensed in the state of Wisconsin.

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