The old saying goes, possession is nine-tenths of the law. That’s not exactly a legally binding statue, but the underlying idea often plays a role. One situation we see frequently involves engagement rings.
One of our founding partners, Rick Jones, makes regular appearances on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show where he answers listeners’ questions. A caller finds herself in a strange situation involving an engagement ring. A family friend gave it to the happy couple only to later have a falling out and demand the ring back. In this situation, what’s she obligated to do?
Caller: “So my fiancé and I were given a ring from a family friend. The ring is in her name from her husband and then he passed away, so she gave it to us as an engagement gift. She got into an argument with my soon-to-be mother-in-law and it just turned nasty. She requested we give the ring back. Do we have to give her the ring back or can we keep it?“
Rick: “Well, the fact that this is, some of the words you’re talking about are engagement and rings. This actually has nothing to do with family law. This is simply, someone gave you a gift, they’re asking for it back. We all sort of understand why she would want it back, but that doesn’t mean you’re required to give it back.”
Danny: “Right, and there’s also the old, whether it’s family law or regular law… possession is nine-tenths of the law. You have that ring. Now if you deal with people who are above board, like if you’re dealing with me, I’m going to come get that ring no matter what you want, you made me mad. But if you’re dealing with a person who’s not going to come over in the middle of the night to get her ring back, just tell her ‘no!’ and nothing. It’s my advice, too, not Rick Jones. Nothing will happen. The ring is not worth the legal fees to pay to get that ring off your finger, that’s your ring.“
Sarah: “Someone just needs to apologize and get over this, it’s a ring.”
Danny: “I’ll never do that!”
This caller’s situation is rather unusual. That said, we often hear questions about engagement rings and who actually owns them. It’s often a bit murky, but there are some things to consider.
Often cases, the law views engagement rings as conditional gifts. Essentially, this means if the gift is based on the assumption the marriage will happen. If it does, then the gift remains the property of the recipient. If the marriage doesn’t happen, however, the recipient may have to give it back.
Every case is different, of course. It often depends on who calls off the wedding. You may also be able to include an engagement ring in a prenuptial agreement or similar contract. If you have questions about this, it’s probably best to speak to a divorce lawyer ahead of time.
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