Whose Ring Is It Anyway?

Hearts, doilies, and roses are everywhere you look. Emails selling romantic prix fixe specialty dinners for two clog your inbox. An eternal loop of diamond ring commercials have taken over your regular television programming. If it looks sparkly and smells like chocolate and roses, Valentine’s Day is looming and you are officially in the thick of engagement season.
Something to consider for the participants of cupid’s favorite time of year: the diamond might only be forever under certain circumstances.

In New Jersey, an engagement ring is a conditional gift representing a “promise to marry.” This means that if an engagement is broken off before the marriage occurs, the “promise to marry” is not fulfilled, and the ring must be returned. The reason for the broken engagement does not matter. The important thing is that the gift was conditional and the condition was not fulfilled.

However, if the marriage does occur, the recipient may keep the ring. In this case, the “promise to marry” is fulfilled, and the symbol of that promise (the ring) becomes the recipient’s personal property. In the event of a subsequent divorce, the engagement ring is not subject to equitable distribution. The donor has no claim to it.