Who keeps the engagement ring in the event of a broken engagement, the bride or the groom? The South Carolina Court of Appeals recently had the opportunity to answer this question in Campbell v. Robinson.
In this case, Campbell, the groom-to-be, filed suit against Robinson, the bride-to-be, for the return of an engagement ring that Campbell provided to Robinson in connection with his proposal for marriage. After accepting the proposal, marriage preparations began, but after some time, the wedding was cancelled and a dispute over ownership of the ring began. The Court stated, "fault does not determine ownership of the ring."
In other words, whether it was the bride or the groom who cancelled the engagement, fault is not basis for deciding who keeps the engagement ring. Instead, the Court adopted the following standard as the rule:
"An engagement ring by its very nature is a symbol of a donor's continuing devotion to the donee. Once an engagement is cancelled, the ring no longer holds that significance…Thus, if a party presents evidence a ring was given in contemplation of marriage, the ring is an engagement ring. As an engagement ring, the gift is in impliedly conditioned upon the marriage taking place. Until the condition underlying the gift is fulfilled, the attempted gift is unenforceable and must be returned to the donor upon the donor's request."
In this case, the bride alleged that the ring was an engagement ring at first but then was converted into an absolute gift when the engagement was cancelled and the groom allegedly advised the bride she could keep the ring, but although the Court did not ultimately affirm or reverse who should keep the ring, it was remanded for a re-trial in light of clarification of the law.
In conclusion, fault is not a basis for determining who is allowed to keep the engagement ring but rather if the engagement ring was given impliedly conditioned upon the marriage taking place or alternatively as an absolute gift.
~ Gary I. Finklea