Legal Question in Family Law in Tennessee

Engagement Ring

When an engagement breaks up, is it legal for the woman to keep the engagement ring or can he sue her to get it back? In this case, the breakup was because the woman caught the man cheating. She is devastated and needs to start over so wants to sell the ring and other gifts. Is the ring hers?

Asked on 7/26/06, 9:42 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Marc Reisman Rosenblum & Reisman, P.C.
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Re: Engagement Ring

Alas, the age old question. It has been observed that ever Since Eve gave an apple to Adam misunderstandings about gifts have existed. In some states, the engagement ring is recognized solely as a conditional gift: That is a a gift that only becomes final upon the actual marriage. In some states, while still seen as a conditional gift, if the engagement is called off by the donee (i.e. you) then the condition is not met, but if it called off by the donor (i.e. him) then you do not have to return it. The dispute is often seen as being between "fault" and "no-fault" states with regard to engagement rings. One fairly unusual court opinion reads: "A gift given by a man to a woman on condition that she embark on the sea of matrimony with him is no different from a gift based on the condition that the donee sail on any other sea. If, after receiving the provisional gift, the donee refuses to leave the harbor,--if the anchor of contractual performance sticks in the sands of irresolution and procrastination--the gift must be restored to the donor. Presumably, if the donor of the ring was the party refusing to leave the pier, the ... court would rule the donee was entitled to the ring."

But this really does not answer your question. Here it appears that you broke off the engagement, but you were justified in doing so based upon your fiancee's lack of faithfulness. Would a court in you jurisdiction base its decision on his fault? Your breakup? Or simply the fact that the marriage did not take place? I don't know the answer having not researched this particular issue in TN, and I am not certain TN courts have weighed in on this. You may wish to hire an attorney to research TN law for you so that you can get a formal opinion letter about this. Best of luck.

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7/31/06, 2:58 pm

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