What happens when “I do” turns into “I don’t?” For many Americans, breaking off an engagement before the wedding has become a stinging reality. Once an engagement is broken off, the couple separates and that seems to be the end of it.
But what about the engagement ring?
This leads to the sensitive situation of which exasperated partner retains the rock.
Kenzie Singleton, attorney at Lawrence’s Sloan Law Firm, says in Kansas, the ring probably should go back to the proposer.
“Generally, the ring should be returned to the person who originally purchased the ring if the engagement was to be broken off,” Singleton says. “An engagement ring is considered a form of a contract. The person presenting the other person with a ring is proposing a contract. If the other person accepts the ring, he or she is willing to fulfill the contact.”
Singleton also presents the other side of the argument by adding, “Some exceptions exist, such as if the ring was given as a gift as well, such as on Christmas or a birthday, then the receiver of the ring should be able to keep it.”
In the Kansas Supreme Court case of Heiman v. Parrish, Chief Justice Kay McFarland is quoted as saying, “Contrary intent has been expressed, an engagement ring is, by its very nature, a conditional gift given in contemplation of marriage.”
McFarland also declared that, “There may be extremely gross and rare situations in which return of the ring may be subject to a determination of who was at fault in breaking the engagement.”
So what does this all mean for the person who receives the ring on a non-gift basis, but just a regular proposal? He or she can basically wave goodbye to the glittery jewel that seemingly used to signify “forever,” if the engagement is broken off.
Rich Yeakel, co-owner of Mark’s Jewelers, 817 Mass., says about 5 percent of engagement rings are returned because the wedding is called off.
“People look pretty sad and depressed when they come to return engagement rings,” Yeakel says.
That’s especially the case if it’s the guy returning the ring, he says. When a woman does it, they usually don’t seem as upset, he says.