We had a case recently where an engagement was broken, and the man who had proposed took the engagement ring from the woman’s nightstand and refused to give it back. It was an expensive ring, and my client—the woman—wanted it back. She felt that it was her former fiancé’s behavior that caused the engagement to be broken off. The case went to trial in the Fulton County Superior Court and resulted in our client’s favor. The judge ordered the man to return the engagement ring to the woman, even though the wedding was off.
Here’s what you need to know about engagement rings and Georgia law when the wedding is called off:
Georgia law states that an engagement ring is a gift from the donor to the donee. The donor must intend to give the ring as a gift, and the donor must actually give the ring to the donee. The donee must accept the ring and the engagement.
Attorneys representing a donor who wants the ring back often argue that the ring is a conditional gift. From their viewpoint, the marriage is the condition that must take place for the donee to keep the ring. If the marriage is off, then the condition is broken and the donee must return the ring.
The donee can overcome this argument if they can prove that it was the donor’s conduct that broke off the engagement. You may hear this situation referred to as the “dirty hands doctrine.” In this case, we were able to show that the donor had committed an act of family violence against the donee. It was the donor’s actions, rather than our client’s conduct, that caused the breaking of the engagement. The court agreed, ruling that our client—the donee—should be allowed to keep the ring!
At Bivek Brubaker & Prescott LLC, we have extensive experience in family law and divorce, including sticky situations like the one presented here. If you have questions about breaking off your engagement or other divorce situations, contact our Marietta divorce attorneys or call 404-793-6530.