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diamond ring creative commons

Image via Creative Commons.

Divorce is the last thing on your mind before spending serious cash on a sparkly sign of DeBeers-style love.   Sadly, although diamonds are a girl’s best friend, many guys want to take that friend away when they decide that divorce is on the horizon.

Let’s be clear: I am not advocating for a decrease in diamond engagement ring sales. Those flashy, gorgeous baubles are lovely and amazing.  Not only are they pretty and mesmerizing, they transform a relationship status on social media instantly.  Diamond rings ward off evil men at bars with a flash, and tell the workplace, society and friends that your lady is loved and committed.

Is there a direct proportion to diamond carat weight to success in marriage?  Nope. If that were true, no Hollywood starlet would ever divorce.

Many of my male clients want their sparklers back- especially when the price tag for the engagement ring is high with multiple commas.

In California, the courts look at the engagement ring as a promise for marriage, and if the bride fulfills the promise of marriage, it is hers free and clear.  If the bride never walks down the aisle, she must return the ring because she never delivered her part of the bargain.

Generally across the states, if you look at how courts address what to do with an engagement ring after a decision not to marry, there are two major rules.

First, the majority rule states that fault determines entitlement to a ring. So, men … if you cheated and she didn’t wed, the ring is hers.  Conversely, the minority rule, says that fault in the breakup should not be considered. Rather, the giving of the ring is viewed as bestowing upon the donee (i.e. your future wife) a conditional gift. The condition is marriage. When that condition fails, the donor is entitled to a return of the ring.

(This may apply to post-marriage upgrades; we Americans have a tendency to be conspicuous consumers.)

Second, most other states — such as Texas — have upheld that an engagement ring is an absolute pre-marriage gift. Therefore, it is not subject to division because it is separate property of the wife. Sorry, guys!

However, there can be an exception in the case of family heirlooms, which are subject to discussion because of the unique quality. Even in states where engagement rings are considered pre-marriage gifts, they may be returned to the husband’s family if they are family heirlooms (i.e. it was your grandparents’ wedding ring).

So … before ring shopping at Tiffany’s or confirming your order for a 3-carat platinum engagement ring for your darling bride, think twice. Do you have any relatives who might be willing to give you a piece of family jewelry instead?

And then, when she asks for an upgrade at your fifth anniversary, remember that it probably will be considered a gift — and no, you can’t have your ring back.


Natalie Gregg
The Law Office of Natalie Gregg
(972) 829 – 3923
[email protected]

 NOTE: None of the information in this blog constitutes or is intended to be legal advice.  If you would like to know about your individual situation or if need legal counsel, you should consult an attorney regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. When you contact the Law Office of Natalie Gregg, this does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.