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If a marriage is called off, who gets the engagement ring?

Planning a wedding and a future with someone can be an exciting and stressful time. In some cases, however, the stress of being engaged outweighs the excitement and one or both people end up calling the wedding off.

It can be very important for people in California to know where they stand in terms of what each person keeps or returns if an engagement ends, and the engagement ring is often the most high-priced item that two people may fight over. It is not uncommon for people to ask, "Who keeps the ring if the wedding is called off?"

In California, the person who breaks off the engagement generally does not get to keep the engagement ring. This means that if a woman receives an engagement ring but then calls off the engagement, in most cases she will need to return the ring to the giver. If the giver calls off the engagement, the woman will likely have a legal claim to keep the ring.

However, if a couple lives in a different state, the rules may be different. For example, in New York, the engagement ring is generally returned to the giver no matter which party breaks off the engagement.

But again, there are exceptions. For instance, one man lost his right to get an engagement ring back from a former fiancée after he sent her a costly string of texts. In his messages to the woman, he stated that he was calling off the engagement. He then wrote that she could keep the ring as a "parting gift." This essentially meant that he re-gave her the ring, even though there was no longer intent to marry. In the end, a judge ruled that the ring belonged to the woman.

Difficult legal issues can come up during any phase of a couple's relationship. Whether these issues arise before, during, after or in lieu of marriage, working them out with the support of with an attorney can be a good way to avoid costly missteps like the one this man made.

Source: The Buffalo News, "Judge rules jilted woman can keep $53,000 diamond engagement ring," Patrick Lakamp, April 5, 2014

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