We are frequently asked this question during divorce proceedings. Generally, property acquired by gift is not considered marital property and is not subject to equitable distribution upon divorce, except when the gift is between spouses. However, when the engagement ring was exchanged, the couple was not yet married. The courts agree that an engagement ring is a conditional gift given by one party to the other in contemplation of marriage. The ring becomes the separate property of the recipient upon the marriage.
Can I get the ring back if I call off the engagement?
If the marriage never occurs, the ring technically should be returned to the donor regardless of who ends the engagement. An engagement ring is a conditional gift. Simply saying “yes” to a proposal is inadequate to satisfy the implied condition of the gift.
Does it matter if the engagement ring was upgraded after the wedding?
Yes. You should beware that if you choose to have your engagement ring upgraded during the marriage, the upgraded portion (i.e., the difference in value between the original ring and the upgraded ring) could be considered marital property. This is an example of a gift between spouses.
To read what the Huffington Post wrote on the topic (and to see examples of what other states do), click here.
If you have additional questions about engagement rings or other equitable distribution issues, contact our experienced divorce attorneys by calling (717)520-4400 or by emailing [email protected].