Which party is entitled to the engagement ring?
Edward and Carrie have been together for a total of six years including a one-year engagement. a year prior to their engagement, the couple moved in together. During the end of the fourth year, Edward proposes to Carrie in front of all their family with the ring she has been Pinteresting for years. They are both aware of the cost of the Tiffany’s ring which was purchased by Edward for $6,500 after taxes.
During their sixth year together, Carrie’s job starts having her travel more and during one of her travels, she meets David. Their interactions started off harmless but eventually turned into something more. Carrie was unable to live a double life, loving two men, so she decided to end the engagement with Edward. Soon after the breakup, Carrie moves out along with the engagement ring.
The question is:
Is Carrie permitted to keep the engagement ring or does she have to give it back to Edward?
I. In the event that engagement is broken by mutual agreement, then the person who paid for the ring may get the ring back or its value, or part of its value. A judge determines what is a fair value for the ring when the parties cannot agree.
II. If the engagement is broken by the person receiving the ring through no fault of the person who paid for the ring, then the person who paid for the ring may get the ring back or its value, or part of its value. A judge determines what is a fair value for the ring if the parties cannot agree.
III. If the engagement is broken by the person who bought, and paid for, the ring through no fault of the person receiving the ring, the person receiving the ring can keep it.
California Civil Code § 1146-1148 :: Article 3. Gifts.1146. A gift is a transfer of personal property, made voluntarily, and without consideration.
1147. A verbal gift is not valid, unless the means of obtaining possession and control of the thing are given, nor, if it is capable of delivery, unless there is an actual or symbolical delivery of the thing to the donee.
1148. A gift, other than a gift in view of impending death, cannot be revoked by the giver.
First, we must address what court has jurisdiction. As Edward and Carrie were not yet married, the local family courthouse may not handle this case. The reason is because the family courthouse handles dissolution of marriages and or legal separations. In this example, the parties were never married and because of that, a family courthouse may not have jurisdiction. The alternative would be to file in civil court.
Second, was this a gift? According to California Civil Code § 1146, a gift is a transfer of personal property, made voluntarily, and without consideration. Engagement rings are customarily exchanged in lieu of a promise for the other person to marry them. Edward gifted Carrie a $6,500 diamond ring in exchange for a promise to marry him. The ring was a gift to Carrie because it was solely paid for my Edward.
Third, the engagement was broken by Carrie because she was unfaithful to Edward. Here, because Edward paid for the ring, and is allegedly not at fault due to the willful actions of Carrie, Edward would be entitled to receive the ring back. However, California is a no-fault state for divorce proceedings but as they were not yet married, this is a legal question for the courts to decide.
What if Carrie decides to sell the ring or not give it back to Edward? Well, then Edward may file for recovery of the ring.