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If you did not marry him

If you are engaged, but haven't married your fiancé:

  • You may be able to keep your engagement ring, or
  • Your fiancé may be able to get it back. 

It all depends on what happened.  It depends on why you did not get married. 

Your fiancé may be able to get it back if he can convince a judge that

  • it would be very unfair for you to keep it, and
  • it is not his fault that you did not marry him.1

On the other hand, if your fiancé did something that caused the breakup, like being abusive, he might not be able to convince a judge that

  • it is unfair for you to keep the ring, and
  • it was your fault that you did not marry him.

If your fiancé wants to get the engagement ring back, he must bring a case in court. It must be a separate case, not part of your restraining order case. If the ring is worth less than $7,000, he can file a case in small claims court to get it back.  He would have to prove that it would be unfair for you to keep the ring because you caused the breakup.

If you are married

If you are married, your engagement ring counts as "marital property."2 If you get divorced, the judge will divide all of the marital property between you and your spouse.3

The judge looks at a number of factors.4 The judge may give the ring to because you contributed certain things to your marriage. The judge may give the ring to your partner and give you your piano, or car, or other property. If your partner takes the ring before you both go to court, the judge may order him to return it to you or pay you money for it.5

Endnotes

1. The rule that you would have to give the ring back if it is unfair for you to keep it and not his fault that the marriage did not take place is in a case called De Cicco v. Barker, 339 Mass. 457, 458-9 (1959).  In that case the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said that Mr. De Cicco gave the ring to Ms. Barker on condition that she marry him after his wife died.  After Mr. De Cicco’s wife died, Ms. Barker refused to marry him without fault on his part. That is why the Court ordered Ms. Barker to return to ring.

2. G.L. c. 208, § 34.

3. Id.

4. Id.

5. In the case of Thomopoulos v. Thomopoulos, 59 Mass.App.Ct. 1101, 793 N.E.2d 1286 (2003), the husband took the diamond out of the wife’s engagement ring before the divorce case went to court. The Court just ordered him to pay her the value of the diamond.  


Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created August, 2012