We Broke Up! Who Keeps the Ring Under Michigan Law?
After dating for several months, he proposes.
She happily says "Yes!" and proudly wears her new engagement ring on her left hand for all the world to see.
The two of them begin making wedding plans, but as time progresses, things go south. The once-happy couple breaks up and calls off the wedding.
The split up their things and go their separate ways.
But there's one item they continue to argue about.
Who keeps the engagement ring?
Wasn't the ring a gift? Shouldn't the recipient get to keep it? Or was it a "conditional gift", given with the expectation that marriage would follow?
For example, according to World Population Review, in Montana the state supreme court ruled that "engagement rings have 'no implied or express condition,' so the giver loses any claim to the ring the instant it's handed over. There is one caveat, though: If the ring was acquired through fraud or deceit, the giver can still sue for its return."
In Alaska, "a fault-based process is used to determine who gets to keep the ring. In this case, the ring will stay with the person who did not break the engagement." Maine and New Hampshire are among U.S. states with similar laws.
Does Michigan law require the return of an engagement ring after a break-up?
A case involving a Detroit-area couple (Meyer v. Mitnick) went all the way to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2001. The pair had gotten engaged in August of 1996, but broke up three months later after she refused to sign a pre-nuptial agreement he proposed. He wanted the nearly $20,000 custom engagement ring back; she countered that it should belong to her since he was the one to call off the engagement.
After hearing impassioned arguments from both sides, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 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."
As it stands, the vast majority of states agree with Michigan in that the engagement ring must be returned to the giver if the engagement is called off for whatever reason.