In the state of New York, the law considers an engagement ring as a conditional gift, where the engagement ring is a gift premised on the condition that the parties will be married. This concept is derived from the legal principle known as, “The Doctrine of Conditional Gifts”, which states that if a gift is given with the expectation that a certain event will occur, i.e. marriage, and said event does not occur, then the gift must be returned.
The issue often arises where the marriage is called off and no wedding takes place. In this case, the person who received the ring is generally required to return the ring to the individual who gave it. However, as often is the case, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if the ring was given on a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, or if the person who gave the ring broke off the engagement, then the recipient may be able to legally keep the ring. Other examples of where the recipient may be entitled to keep the ring are where the ring is given in anticipation of the occurrence of a different event other than a wedding – such as a promise to move in together. In this example, if the parties move in together and the wedding does not occur, the recipient may be permitted to keep the ring.