This week the story of Bradley Moss and Amy Bzura and their engagement ring has received plenty of attention due to the price of the ring and the confusing question: who keeps an engagement ring if the engagement is called off? Moss and Bzura were a couple who called off their wedding for unknown reasons, and Mr. Moss has since initiated legal action looking to recover the $125,000 ring or its value.
There are a few different approaches to this situation, which means that the answer can vary depending on where you live. In Pennsylvania, an engagement ring is considered a conditional gift. This means that the gift was given in contemplation of marriage. If for any reason a marriage does not occur, the condition is not satisfied. In other words, the person who gave the ring should get the ring back if the couple decides not to go forward with the marriage. Under this analysis, it does not matter why the marriage didn't happen, who called the engagement off, or who was at fault. The only consideration is that the gift was conditional, and for whatever reason, that condition will not be satisfied.
However, under limited circumstances, there may be an exception to this rule. If the engagement ring was given as an unconditional gift, the recipient may be allowed to keep the ring even if the engagement is called off. A common example of this is where the engagement ring is given to the recipient for Christmas and is represented as a Christmas present. In this case, the ring may be seen as an unconditional gift that also happens to symbolize an engagement. If a gift is determined to be unconditional, it does not need to be returned to the person that gave it.
Sometimes when an engagement ends, the party who was given the ring may voluntarily return the ring to the other party. In other situations, the party who received the ring may refuse to return it, or even sell or destroy the ring. The party who gave the ring would be able to sue the other party for the return of the ring or the equivalent monetary value. However, if the party who gave the ring tells the other party to keep it after the engagement ends, then the ring becomes an unconditional gift, and the party who originally received the ring may keep it.
If Moss and Bzura were engaged in Pennsylvania, the answer would require an analysis of what the circumstances were when the ring was given, i.e. was it a conditional gift? If so, Bzura would be required to return the ring. If you have questions about this topic or other questions about distinguishing marital and non-marital property, contact our Pennsylvania Family Lawyers today!