Engagement Rings and Divorce: Who gets it?


Engagement Rings and Divorce

When a relationship dissolves and an engagement breaks off, it is not uncommon for controversy to arise over who has the legal right to the engagement ring. In determining the rightful and legal owner of the ring, Illinois courts look to which party ended the engagement. Unfortunately, because the couple was never actually married and therefore not going through a divorce the same rules do not apply as with married couples.

Ordinarily, if one spouse has a change of heart and unilaterally breaks the engagement, she or he is required to return the ring. The reasoning behind this policy is quite simple: the law rests on the notion that a gift given in contemplation of marriage (the ring) is conditional on the subsequent marriage of the parties. The party who breaks the condition has no right to any property acquired under such pretenses. Similarly, if the engagement is “mutually broken,” the ring should also be returned. For example, in situations where infidelity arises during the engagement, the cheating party is viewed as the cause for breaking the engagement and, therefore, will not have a claim to the engagement ring.

Many times, clients going through the divorce process inquire about property rights pertaining to engagement and wedding rings however, in most situations, the receiving party will probably get to keep the engagement ring. The gift was given to him or her in contemplation of marriage and the marriage occurred. In a dissolution of marriage proceeding, courts typically consider the engagement ring to be a gift and classify it as non-marital property.

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