No one enters into a romantic relationship with bad intentions. You get together because you deeply care about each other, and if you get engaged and plan to get married, it’s because you want to spend the rest of your lives together. But unfortunately, sometimes things don’t quite go as planned.
People drift apart. They meet other partners. Sometimes they just decide they’re not ready to get married. It happens. This is almost always for the best. But even an engagement is a large financial commitment. In 2015, the average cost of an engagement ring in America was $4,758, so when an engagement is broken off, the person who proposed and spent a large amount of money on that ring often wants it back.
A Mix of Property Law and Family Law in North Carolina
An engagement ring is of course a gift, and gifts have a very specific place under the law. A gift must be intended as such, it must actually be given to the person receiving it, and that person must accept the gift. All three of those elements must be present for an item to legally be a gift, and once a gift has been accepted by the recipient, it is typically irrevocable under the law.
North Carolina does not have any statutes or case law that directly go to the issue of who gets a ring if an engagement is called off. Some states consider whose fault it is for ending the engagement, and whichever party is at fault will not get the ring. No North Carolina precedent makes fault an issue in such cases, however.
Rather, North Carolina courts analyze gifts based on when they were given and under what circumstances. Among those circumstances are “implied conditions,” such as giving a gift only in the event that the recipient performs a certain action. In the case of an engagement, the implied condition is that the recipient will marry to the person giving the ring, or forfeit it.
This is how the vast majority of other states treat engagement rings when an engagement is broken off. Only Montana still classifies engagement rings as unconditional gifts that are never returned to the person who proposed. So while it appears that in a North Carolina case the individual who received the ring will have to return it to the other party, this is not the hard and fast rule. If the person who received the ring can show that there were other circumstances that demonstrated the ring was given unconditionally, she may be able to keep the ring, but it will certainly be a more difficult argument for her.
Partner with Committed Family Law Attorneys
Remington & Dixon, PLLC is committed to resolving all types of family law disputes, from broken engagements to divorces and spousal support. To speak with an experienced family law attorney in Charlotte, contact our offices today.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.