We Broke Up. What Happens to The Engagement Ring?

Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on February 20, 2020

When you met the love of your life, you presented her with the most stunning engagement ring. An intricate gold band and the clearest diamond available. Though the most significant jewel, this isn’t the first piece of jewelry you’ve given her. But now, your relationship has crumbled and perhaps, the divorce process has begun. 

But what happens to the engagement ring?

The Division of Property in Tennessee

In Tennessee, property is divided in the process known as the equitable division of assets. Most property that is acquired during the course of a marriage is considered a marital asset. However, property that is considered to be separately owned by one spouse under Tennessee law includes property owned by one spouse before marriage as well as gifts and inheritances, and not subjected to distribution.

It is important to know that equitable does not mean equal. This is why engagement rings, in particular, are difficult to quantify in one category over another. 

What happens to the engagement ring once we divorce?

Let’s look at the timeline. You purchased the ring before the marriage. Is it a gift? A symbol? This is where the discrepancies come in. While there isn’t a set rule which says what must happen to the ring, there tends to be a trend the courts will follow depending on set circumstances.

The ring is separate property of the spouse who received the ring so long as the couple did get married after it was given. But, if the couple separates before “I Do,” most states will say the gift was conditional and should return to the person who purchased it. 

We never got married. Can I get the engagement ring back?

In Tennessee, the conditional gift rule is most often in place for engagement rings. This was solidified by the court ruling in Crippen v. Campbell. The Court stated:

“In summary, we hold that an engagement ring is given in contemplation of marriage, and, as such, is impliedly a conditional gift. If marriage, for whatever reason, does not ensue, ownership of the ring never vests in the donee and the donor is entitled to the return of the ring… If and when that which the parties contemplated—the marriage—does not occur, the engagement ring goes back to the one who gave it.”

The loophole for this is if the engagement ring was given on a holiday or the receiver’s birthday. 

In those cases, it may be argued that the engagement ring was not given in anticipation of marriage, but given for some other purpose.

But, this doesn’t really solve all the problems. If the ring was a family heirloom, or was destroyed before it could be divided or recouped, there are most issues to follow. 

That’s why if you are in the process of a breakup or divorce in Tennessee, you need the guidance of a trusted family law attorney.

Say “I Do” to Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC

Like the song says, breaking up is hard to do. But getting the engagement ring back doesn’t have to be. Whether you never made it to the altar or you are going through a divorce, our firm will work tirelessly to ensure your assets are distributed equally. Our firm represents clients in West Meade and Charlotte as well as throughout Davidson and Williamson Counties with their divorce and other family law matters. Please contact our office online or by phone at (615) 800-7096 today to see how we may assist you.

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