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California Family Law: Broken Promises, Broken Proposals


Who keeps the engagement ring?by Lovette T. Mioni


February 14th is considered the most romantic day of the year for many. Sometimes, romanticism spurs a compulsion to make a grand gesture, like a very public proposal. Whether public or private, about six million people expect or will offer a marriage proposal on Valentine's Day, according to CNN.

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry though, and that is often the case with proposals. In that situation, who gets to keep the ring?

General rules of etiquette imply that a fiancée return the engagement ring to the former intended when a wedding is called off, regardless of which party cancelled the wedding plans.

In California there is a law that addresses this issue. California Civil Code §1590 says:

Where either party to a contemplated marriage in this State makes a gift of money or property to the other on the basis or assumption that the marriage will take place, in the event that the donee refuses to enter into the marriage as contemplated or that it is given up by mutual consent, the donor may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just.

This means that civil courts in California look at who broke the engagement. If an engagement ring donor breaks off an engagement, it is likely a court would rule that the recipient, anticipating marriage, may legally keep the ring. If the donee broke off an engagement, the donor has the right to legally reclaim the ring. 

If you are considering giving a very expensive engagement ring, or a family heirloom engagement ring, we recommend obtaining a prenuptial agreement that sets forth who will keep the engagement ring in the event of a break up. 

Contact one of our Divorce Attorneys for more information.

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