The Wedding's Off. Who Keeps the Ring?
In Michigan, if the engagement is called off, diamonds are definitely not a girl's best friend.
You are engaged to be married, and have either bought or received a beautiful expensive, engagement ring. Unfortunately, something happens to destroy the pre-wedded bliss and the wedding is called off for good.
If the marriage never happens, who gets the engagement ring?
Michigan courts have answered that question unequivocally: the person who gave the ring in anticipation of the marriage gets it back.
The definitive case on this issue in Michigan is Meyer v Mitnick, 244 Mich App 697 (2001.) In that Oakland County Circuit Court divorce case, Dr. Barry Meyer purchased a custom-designed engagement ring for his finance’ Robyn Mitnick at the cost of $19,500. After he gave her the engagement ring, but prior to the marriage, Meyer asked Mitnick to sign a prenuptial agreement, and she refused.
The marriage was called off.
However, Mitnick refused to return the engagement ring. In return, Meyer sued her to get it back. He argued that the engagement ring was a conditional gift, given only in anticipation of marriage, and since the marriage wasn’t going to happen, the gift should be returned.
Mitnick argued that Meyer was at fault for the marriage not happening since he broke off the marriage. She argued that based upon that fault, she should be allowed to keep the ring.
The trial court, Oakland County Circuit Court, which also serves parts of Northville, ruled that the ring should be returned to Meyer because the engagement ring is a conditional gift. That means that it was given solely in anticipation of a marriage, and must be returned to the purchaser if the marriage doesn’t happen.
The trial court also decided that it didn’t matter who broke off the engagement, refusing to consider fault in determining who keeps the ring. Mitnick appealed that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The Michigan Court of Appeals sided with Meyer and upheld the trial court’s decision.
They concluded the following: “In sum, we hold 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 reasons, the gift is not capable of becoming a completed gift and must be returned to the donor.”
Long story short, if the marriage doesn’t happen, the ring must be given back to the person that gave it.
With that being said, that two people can always come to a written agreement otherwise. If there is a written agreement that the person receiving the engagement ring can keep it regardless of what happens, that agreement would usually govern. Also keep in mind that once the couple is married, the condition of marriage is fulfilled, and the engagement ring, once a conditional gift, is now an outright gift and belongs solely to the person receiving it.
The information provided in this column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public website is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this website. The nformation contained in the column applies to general principles of law and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Reading the information contained in this column does not mean that you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Wendy Alton or the law firm of Fausone Bohn. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the website without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.