The engagement is over. Personal items are returned, Facebook accounts are blocked, and the wedding is off. But what happens to the engagement ring?
In Pennsylvania, engagement rings are treated as conditional gifts. This means that until a future event occurs, the gift is not complete, and if the future event does not occur, then the donor has the right to get the gift back. In this situation, the donor gives the engagement ring to the donee on the condition that she marry him. If the engagement is broken, the gift is not complete and the ring may be returned to the donor.
The condition of the gift does not have to be explicit. Pennsylvania Courts have held that the gift of an engagement ring contains the implied condition of marriage. Women have attempted to keep their engagement rings by arguing that the condition needed to make the engagement ring gift final is the acceptance of the marriage proposal. However, Pennsylvania Courts have explicitly held that mere acceptance of the marriage proposal is not the implied condition for the engagement ring gift.
What if he is at fault for breaking the engagement?
Pennsylvania Courts have adopted a strict no-fault principle to engagement rings. The donor of the gift is entitled to the return of the engagement ring even if he is the one who broke the engagement. Moreover, the reasons for the breaking of the engagement do not matter. This strict no-fault principle means that the donor is entitled to the return of the ring regardless of his reasons, no matter how detestable, for breaking off the engagement.
This principle is also consistent with Pennsylvania’s adoption of no-fault divorces, where marriages (and in this case engagements) can end without court battles over who is at fault