One of the most commonly asked questions when a couple breaks up after getting engaged (but before marriage) is the following: who keeps the ring? The State of Florida mimics the position held by most jurisdictions throughout the country on this matter. As it turns out, Florida’s general position is that engagement rings are “conditional gifts,” but things can also be tricky depending on the facts involved.
The State of Florida’s general position is that engagement rings are not really “gifts” per se, but are more akin to contractual obligations, or “conditional gifts.” Basically, the giver transfers the ring to the recipient with the expectation (or, condition) that the marriage will take place. Hence, the marriage itself is the consideration provided by the recipient. So, once the marriage takes place, then the ring becomes irrevocable. However, although this is Florida’s general position, there are complex situations which can arise, and in some cases the recipient may keep the ring even in the event that the marriage doesn’t occur.
As stated, Florida’s general position is that a ring is a conditional gift, but courts will also examine the circumstances surrounding the break up when they determine whether a ring is irrevocable. Courts will take fault into consideration: who was responsible for the break up? Generally speaking, if the recipient caused the break, then the ring will be returned to the giver. However, if the scenario is reversed, and the giver is responsible for the break, then the ring will normally be kept by the recipient. From a contract law standpoint, this makes perfect sense, because by breaking off the engagement the giver of the ring would be rendering performance impossible for the recipient.
In addition to fault, other circumstances may also be relevant in determining whether an engagement ring is irrevocable. If the recipient can demonstrate, by citing certain factors, that the engagement ring was indeed an actual gift, as opposed to a gift conditioned upon marriage, then the ring may be irrevocable even in the event of a break up. For instance, suppose that a person gives an engagement ring to his or her significant other on the recipient’s birthday, or on another holiday such as Christmas or Valentine's Day. In that type of situation, there is a legitimate argument to be made that the engagement ring was actually an unconditional gift, as opposed to a conditional gift, because the circumstances render this interpretation viable. If the giver transferred the gift under those kinds of circumstances, then the ring may not revocable even if the recipient is the one responsible for an eventual break up.
The Family Matters Law Firm has over 25 years of experience serving families in Miami. We strive to assist our clients with all aspects of the divorce and separation processes, including conflict resolution, therapist referrals, and finance management referrals. We will help you divorce yourself from the fight and find peace of mind as you make a fresh start.
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