U.S. News


N.Y. Court Rules Woman Can Keep $10K Ring From Ex-Boyfriend

A New York judge ruled Debbie Lopez could keep the ring because it was a gift, as her ex never asked her to marry him when giving Lopez the ring.
Posted at 12:43 PM, Oct 23, 2014

So who gets to keep the engagement ring when a couple go their separate ways? 

One former couple took that question all the way to a New York court. But here's what's interesting about this story: The man, Joseph Robert Torres, says he clearly proposed. But the woman, Debbie Lopez, says Torres never asked that oh-so-important question. 

WNYW: "Turns out the couple's 6-year-old son handed the ring to his mom. She says her boyfriend never actually said the four famous words, 'Will you marry me?' ... She told the judge she thought the $10,000 ring was a gift."

The New York Post reports the judge ruled "Lopez was not bound by the law requiring women to return engagement rings because it was 'given as a gift and not in contemplation of marriage.'" 

So, in this case, Lopez gets to keep the $10,000 sparkler. That got us thinking — are there actually laws that require people to give back engagement rings when couples break up?

The answer is yes. An attorney writing for Primer Magazine says many states have adopted the rationale that "an engagement ring is a conditional gift, which is conditioned upon marriage between the parties." 

This means states such as Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa and Pennsylvania all say if the couple never gets married, then the "condition" is not met and legally the ring must be returned to the person who purchased it. 

Although New York is one of those states requiring engagement rings to be returned, in the case of Lopez and Torres, the judge deemed the ring an unconditional gift. 

The Campbell Law Observer defines three components of unconditional gift-giving: the giver's intention to bestow the item as a gift, the giver's delivery of the gift and the recipient's acceptance of the gift. In this case the judge decided Torres hadn't explicitly mentioned a condition when delivering the ring as a gift.

But really, if you're going to ask someone to marry you, you should probably say those four little words. 

This video includes images from Kris / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and herefordcat / CC BY NC 2.0