If the marriage is off, who keeps “my precious?”

my precious

In Massachusetts, when the marriage is called off, who gets to keep the engagement ring?

I often answer questions from askers on AVVO.com.  Today I came across a very interesting question about who gets to keep an engagement ring, legally, if a marriage is called off.  Here is how I responded.


“My fiancée and I won’t be getting married and he broke it off. We live in Ma. Do I need to give back my engagement ring?  I heard it was an “unconditional gift”, but it depends on the state. He is asking for it back and I don’t believe I need to give it back. Please tell me the law and answer. Thank you!”

First attorney response:

“Typically, the law is that if it was given on a day that you would typically receive a gift (such as Christmas, birthday, etc), it is yours to keep, and is see as a gift. Otherwise, you’ll have to give it back. It is seen as a CONDITIONAL not unconditional gift. The condition being that you ultimately marry. If you were not given the ring on a holiday, technically, it is no longer your property and might want to consider giving it back. Good luck.”

My response:

Well I agree and disagree with the other lawyer answering this question. Yes I agree in that, it is true that in Massachusetts, usually, the ring gets returned. Based on De Cicco v. Barker, the ring is a “conditional” gift. However, I disagree based on a few exceptions. One of them is called “clean hands.”

For example, if the giver of the ring has behaved like a total idiot, like he cheats on you, than the court might side with you, the ring recipient, and let you keep the ring. The Court will look at why the marriage didn’t take place. For example, did your fiance had a conjugal visit with his ex-girlfriend a month before the wedding? If this is true, then he isn’t coming into court with what we call in the legal world, “clean hands” and you will likely get to keep the ring.

The court is big on clean hands. In Bowzer v. Daly, in 2006, the Massachusetts Superior Court ruled that a woman had to return the ring to her ex-fiance specifically because she had hit him. If it’s the other way around and he hit you, well than that’s another story. In these instances (he hit you), he would not be entitled to have the ring returned.

But, as a general rule, without abuse, infidelity or serious financial losses on your part, the consensus of the Court is that you should return the ring.

If you like this and would like to read more of my responses to legal questions, visit me on AVVO.com. Here’s the link where you can visit my AVVO profile: http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/01507-ma-ginger-kelly-4484243.html

 Lawyer Ginger Kelly | Featured Attorney Contracts



ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com or www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.


NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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