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Who Gets the Ring if the Engagement is Called Off in the State of California?

Carlsbad, CA – When you’ve called off your engagement in the state of California, you may find yourself arguing with your ex-fiancé about possession of the ring. That’s not surprising. With the average engagement ring costing $5,200, who gets the ring is bound to be an important discussion. So, who gets to keep it? The one who bought or the receiver?

Engagement Rings in Other States

engagement ringSome states see the engagement rings as conditional gifts. That is, they are gifts given to another in expectation of marriage. If there is no marriage, many states have laws that say that the ring should be returned, regardless of who calls off the engagement.

California sees it differently.

California Family Law and Engagement Rings

The question of engagement ring ownership comes up quite often in California family courtrooms, said family attorney John Griffith of Griffith, Young, and Lass serving Carlsbad, Del Mar, and Leucadia.

“According to California family law, the person who broke off the engagement usually gets to keep the ring,” Griffith said.

Under California family law Civil Code 1590, “[G]ifts made in contemplation of marriage are revocable if the marriage doesn’t take place.”

The code further states that the statute is applied to either party and that the ring must be returned if the recipient refuses to marry or the marriage is mutually abandoned.

But what if the person who gifted the ring is the one who called off the engagement?

Does the Purchaser Get to Keep the Ring?

“Unfortunately,” said Griffith, “California family law doesn’t specifically refer to the donor calling off the engagement. It is more written to protect the receiver of the ring from getting dumped before the couple has a chance to make it to the altar.”

Legal case Simonian v Donoian coincides with Griffith’s interpretation of the law when it says, “The clear meaning of the quoted statute is that the donee of an engagement ring is entitled to retain possession thereof when the marriage contract is breached by the donor without any fault on the donee’s part.”

Griffith pointed out that the statute isn’t only referring to engagement rings. The law covers property and other “gifts” that are given in expectation that he or she will soon be married.

The case Shaw v Shaw saw a man awarded property that had been purchased in the name of husband and wife before the couple were married, all because his fiancé failed to obtain a divorce from her previous husband and the engagement was called off.

Griffith says that no two cases are the same and that if ownership of an engagement ring is contested, it is best to seek the advice of an experienced California family lawyer.

To learn more about California family law as it applies to engagement rings, contact family lawyers Griffith, Young, and Lass serving Carlsbad, Del Mar, and Leucadia at

© 2016 Millionairium and Griffith, Young & Lass. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Millionairium and Griffith, Young & Lass are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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Meet Your Dedicated San Diego Family Attorneys
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS

Family Attorney, John N. Griffith, CFLS

John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.


Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.
Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

San Diego family lawyer Catie Young has a wide range of litigation experience. She has worked in civil litigation. She has successfully represented clients in many areas of family law including child support, child custody, divorce and domestic violence. She has a unique approach to each child custody case, so clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases.


Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.
Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Family Attorney, Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Amy Lass was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting and went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006. Amy takes a practical and cost considerate approach to the process while striving to balance the emotional needs and objectives of her clients.


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