Who keeps the engagement ring after a breakup? 2 law professors explain why you might want a prenup for your diamond

David Castro

When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck obtained engaged the 1st time, in 2002, he gave her a pretty pricey ring. That engagement ring was reportedly value as considerably as $2.5 million, manufactured by luxurious jeweler Harry Winston and adorned with a 6.1-carat pink diamond.

Immediately after the movie stars broke up in 2004 without the need of receiving married, J. Lo mentioned she intended to return the ring “quietly” to Affleck. Whether or not or she at any time did that or not, was Lopez entitled to hold the that rock or any of the other people she acquired from her a lot of ex-husbands and former fiancés?

The remedy can matter to everyone who is engaged, married – or even considering about tying the knot. No one is aware of for positive how many engagements conclusion in a break up, even though there are estimates that roughly 1 in 5 do so.

As regulation professors who educate house and family legislation, we routinely chat to college students – and our possess family members – about gifts and relationship. Pupils normally ask us who owns the engagement ring if couples never get married or if they ultimately divorce. They also want to know what transpires if the ring is stolen.

Though taxes, rules and insurance policy are not extremely attractive matters, relationship has under no circumstances been only about romance. It’s also a partnership with financial repercussions.

Scarce in advance of the 20th century

Engagement rings had been reasonably scarce until eventually about 100 many years in the past, even even though the initial diamond engagement ring was evidently presented by Emperor Maximilian to Mary of Burgundy in 1377. But it was not until the stop of the Excellent Despair that a subtle marketing marketing campaign designed a market for diamond engagement rings in the United States.

By 1940, 10{588b6a73d0fd0030a7dfcc3258d1c6d259509b7ec0f2eecf331d98a5c91e6f21} of brides received diamond rings. That share jumped to 80{588b6a73d0fd0030a7dfcc3258d1c6d259509b7ec0f2eecf331d98a5c91e6f21} by 1990.

Perhaps propelled by the belief that a ring ought to expense as much as a male earns in three months, pricey diamond engagement rings grew in attractiveness from 1935 to 1965.

No recourse for jilted grooms

Regulation professor Margaret Brinig has located that lawful improvements coincided with the new customs all over the mid-20th century.

Particularly, Brinig points to the abolition of the lawsuits recognized as “breach of guarantee” steps, which could be filed following broken engagements.

That is, brides could hold rings – even pricey types – devoid of getting married.

This new convention, Brinig has created, could have served as a type of payment if the bride experienced missing her virginity just after receiving engaged. Should really the marriage not transpire, she’d at the very least have something of value to maintain onto.

Bride and groom figurines arranged to look angry at each other on either side of a knife cutting a wedding cake in half.
Are they arguing over who gets to keep the ring?
Peter Dazeley/The Image Lender by means of Getty Images

No-fault engagements?

In the next half of the 20th century, U.S. divorce legal guidelines improved, and courts stopped identifying who was to blame when married partners broke up. In what came to be regarded as no-fault divorce, neither partner had to demonstrate the other had cheated or been cruel to them.

And, as regulation professor Rebecca Tushnet documents, lots of courts have applied a related “no-fault” framework to broken engagements. That implies it doesn’t matter who broke it off, or why.

In addressing that rule in 1997, three judges on a Pennsylvania superior court docket drew on the tale of Adam and Eve, meandered into Roman times and then declared “the reward of the ring to [the bride] at the time of their betrothal was matter to an implied ailment demanding its return if the marriage did not get place.”

And that was in a case in which a person who experienced proposed to his girlfriend referred to as off the engagement twice.

Courts in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and other states have issued similar rulings.

Different states, different stakes

But the Supreme Court of Montana held in 2002 that an ex-fiancée could preserve her engagement ring immediately after a separation. Noting that girls “often nevertheless presume the bulk of pre-wedding day charges,” the court docket expressed worries that dealing with engagement rings as items conditional upon marriage could perpetuate gender bias.

And a Texas courtroom ruled a calendar year afterwards that someone who gave an engagement ring to his fiancée and then afterwards identified as off the wedding ceremony was not entitled to its return.

In California, a condition regulation enacted in 1939 provides that the ring have to be returned if the marriage is broken off by mutual consent or the person who obtained an engagement ring initiates the separation.

No matter of exactly where you reside, if you are legally obligated to return an engagement ring and fail to do so, you might be on the hook for financial damages. This can lead to economic hardship when rings are dropped, stolen or deliberately thrown away.

Tax repercussions

If just one person keeps the ring immediately after a breakup, there may possibly be reward tax implications for the individual who bought the ring. But which is only if the ring costs much more than $17,000, and there are a lot of variables and loopholes that can decrease the chances that a jilted ex would ever owe any funds to the Inner Earnings Company.

Any one can make gifts worthy of up to $17,000 for every year, as of 2023, to any individual else without the need of incurring consequences. Presents value additional than that threshold are formally topic to a gift tax, and the IRS involves that taxpayers report the volume of people items yearly.

As of 2023, taxpayers also may well give away items totaling $12.92 million all through their complete lifetimes, or after death in their wills, with no tax-linked penalties.

But presents of $17,000 or a lot more will eat into that credit history.

Setting up in advance

Everyone who will get engaged can insure a ring.

And while no viewers ought to see this short article as a supply of own legal guidance, we do notice that engaged couples can established their individual procedures. Courts will commonly enforce written agreements arrived at between two persons who program on getting married that stipulate who receives the ring soon after a break up.

Couples can draft or indication a ring-associated deal, notably if that piece of jewellery has terrific sentimental or financial value.

We recognize that such paperwork may possibly not materialize in the course of a time of bended knees and joyful celebration. We also get that what people today do with their rings when an engagement is identified as off isn’t just a make any difference of what the regulation calls for.

Couple of these types of lawsuits

Maybe not surprisingly, we have uncovered rather few situations in which anyone sued an ex about this problem.

Not even Ben Affleck did that. Had he tried out to sue J. Lo in 2004 in a California courtroom, he could possibly have won. But his good results would have turned on how the engagement finished.

Moreover, as you could have read, the high-profile pair reunited in 2021 and married in 2022.

The second engagement ring Affleck gave Lopez is reportedly truly worth $5 million – most likely double that of the 1st just one. J. Lo will get to hold that substantial, scarce eco-friendly diamond without end now that she’s stating her title is Mrs. Jennifer Lynne Affleck.

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