Have you experienced a broken engagement?
Along with the emotional turmoil following a breakup, you also usually have a significant financial investment at stake in the ring. Do you legally have to give back an engagement ring?
Most fiancees willingly give back the ring when you break up, but some people do not.
If your ex-fiancee is trying to keep the engagement ring, what should you do?
What does Texas law say about who can keep the ring?
What Type of Gift Is the Ring?
Texas law classifies gifts into two categories: irrevocable and conditional. Determining which category the engagement ring fits into has a big impact on the answer to the question, Do you have to give the engagement ring back?
Irrevocable gifts are given without conditions and cannot be taken back, but they require these elements:
You must knowingly give the gift. If your girlfriend found a ring somewhere in your house and took it without permission, you never showed intent to give her the ring.
You must actually give the gift. If you window shopped for a ring, picked out a ring at a jewelry store, or showed your ex a photo of a ring, these actions don’t meet the criteria. Also, if you accidentally gave the ring to someone, this action doesn’t indicate an irrevocable gift.
The recipient must accept the gift. If your fiancee says, “Let me think about it” or “I’ll hold onto this ring while I decide” instead of giving you a firm answer to your proposal, these words probably don’t convey acceptance of the gift.
Here’s an example of an irrevocable gift. You order a present for your friend’s birthday, wrap it, and hand it to your friend at their party. This shows intent and delivery. Your friend opens the gift and thanks you for it, accepting the gift.
On the other hand, the giver can ask for a conditional gift to be returned. The gift does not become irrevocable until the condition is fulfilled. You often see conditional gifts in wills, such as, “I leave my grandson my car if he graduates college.” If the grandson decides to drop out of college to create a tech startup, he doesn’t get the car.
Engagement Ring Conditions
According to Texas law, engagement ring gifts are also conditional. You give your fiancee a ring with the condition that they marry you. When you give the ring, you ask, “Will you marry me?” and your fiancee, replies, “Yes!” This shows that the gift was given with the condition of marriage attached, and your fiancee agreed to the condition when they accepted it.
Fault-Based Conditional Gift Rule
However, Texas law adds a fault-based layer to the conditional gift rule for engagement rings. As the court explains in Curtis v. Anderson, Texas law treats an engagement ring as a conditional gift only when the recipient breaks the engagement.
To put it another way, the court wants to hold the person who broke their promise to marry accountable. This means that if you gave the ring, then called off the engagement, your fiancee doesn’t have to give the ring back. However, if your fiancee breaks the engagement, you can ask for the ring back.
What If You Have a Written Agreement?
If you and your fiancee signed a written agreement detailing who would get the ring in the event of a broken engagement, that agreement would govern.
Even if your fiancee breaks the engagement, if the signed agreement says they can keep the ring, you’ll probably lose. However, Texas law on engagement rings declares that an oral agreement won’t stand up in court. Agreements regarding marriage must be in writing and signed to be enforceable.
What If You’re Married?
So, can you get an engagement ring back after you marry? Probably not. The gift of the engagement ring becomes irrevocable because the condition of marriage is met. This means that you can’t ask for the ring back if you decide to leave your spouse. However, if the ring is important to you, divorce negotiations could include payment for the return of the ring.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you want the ring back after a broken engagement, you may need legal help. At The Larson Law Office, our attorneys give each client personalized advice and work to find the best outcome for your situation. You’ll work directly with our attorneys, instead of speaking to a paralegal or administrative assistant, as we work to get your ring back.
As we’ve explained in this post, Texas engagement ring law requires some analysis of the circumstances. Contact us for a free phone consultation where you can share your story and we can discuss your legal options.