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Can you get the ring back when an engagement goes wrong?

Engagement rings symbolize a promise for a future together. Those who purchase this piece of jewelry often have to save for months and, in some cases, take out loans to cover the costs. But what happens to the ring if one party calls off the engagement? That is the question posed in a recent case filed in federal court in Washington D.C.

Details of the case: Was the ring a gift? The case involves a couple that was living together for approximately one year. At this time, one party bought the other a 4.06 carat ring. One party offered the ring with the proposal of marriage. Acceptance of the ring was, according to the court filing, dependent upon the impending nuptials.

The couple had a professional photographer document the engagement. Pictures show the proposal and placement of the ring on the defendant’s ring finger. The proposal took place in a public location and additional witnesses are available. Both parties also made engagement announcements to family, friends and loved ones and began making inquiries to wedding venues.

Application of the law: Does it address engagement rings? First, it is important to note that family law is a creature of state law. In this case, the laws of Washington D.C. apply. Under D.C. law, an engagement ring is a conditional gift. As such, when the engagement fails the ring should be returned. This is common in many states.

Thus, the plaintiff has requested return of the ring or payment to cover the damages connected to the cost of the ring.

Lessons for broken engagements: Will this type of case find success? Like many things in the legal world, the answer is dependent on a number of factors. Ideally, the parties will be able to come to a resolution without heading to a jury trial. If not, the fate of the ring could depend on a court’s determinations.

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