At least once a year, I am asked: Does my fiance have to return the engagement ring if the wedding is called off? This was recently in the news when a Dallas Cowboy football player (who used to play here in Michigan for the Detroit Lions) proposed to a beauty queen who declined the offer but kept the ring. Understandably, he wanted the ring back. After some back and forth and publicity, she agreed to return it.
But what if she says “Yes” but never says “I do.” I hear it both from both sides. The woman may feel that since he broke up with her, she gets to keep the ring. The man may feel that it was her fault that it didn’t work out so he gets the ring back, especially if he is still paying for it. Common sense suggests that if the wedding is off, the engagement ring should be returned but emotions get in the way. In Michigan, there is a case called Meyer v. Mitnick which was decided in 2001 which resolves the issue.
The woman in that case argued that since the man was at fault for not following through, she should get to keep the $20,000 engagement ring. The man argued that the ring was a conditional gift. The “condition” was that in order to keep the ring, the wedding had to happen. The wedding would then fulfill the agreement and the gift would be completed. This wasn’t like a Christmas present. It clearly represented something more.
Finding fault and blame the other for the break up has nothing do with it. The Court in Meyer wrote: In sum, we hold that an engagement ring given in contemplation of marriage is an impliedly conditional gift that is a completed gift only upon marriage. If the engagement is called off, for whatever reason, the gift is not capable of becoming a completed gift and must be returned to the donor.
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Chris McAvoy is a Taylor, Michigan attorney and consumer bankruptcy lawyer who helps people with bankruptcy, family law, and estate planning. To find out more or set up an appointment, click here for contact info. We help people in Taylor, Allen Park, Southgate, Lincoln Park, Riverview, Trenton, Flat Rock, Wyandotte, Brownstown, Belleville, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and the Downriver, Michigan area.