Broken Engagement—Do I Have To Give My Ring Back?

By: BeresfordBooth

When an engaged couple breaks off the engagement, does the recipient of the ring have to give the ring back? The answer is—depends on the circumstances of the broken engagement.

If the recipient (unjustifiably) breaks off the engagement, the ring must be returned to the donor.

If the donor unjustifiably breaks off the engagement, the ring may be retained by the recipient.

The outcome of any case depends on the circumstances of each case. Should the donor unjustifiably break off the engagement, then, in that instance, the recipient may retain the engagement ring. The analysis is not just who broke off the engagement. Rather, was the break up “justified.” If the break up by the donor was “justified,” then presumably the ring would need to be returned by the recipient because the donor of an engagement ring makes the gift upon the implied condition that if the contemplated marriage does not occur, the recipient will return the ring. I suppose one could make a similar argument in favor of the recipient should the recipient break off the engagement (i.e., was the recipient justified in doing so. If so, does the recipient need to return the ring?)

With all that said, once you marry, you’ve sealed the deal and the recipient keeps the ring.

See Spinnell v. Quigley, 56 Wn. App. 799, 802-02, 785 P.2d 1149 (1990)

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