I have heard many beautiful stories about how people became engaged. Some people “pop the question” after a romantic dinner. Some do it during a romantic getaway. Some are very creative and have proposed at baseball games, on television, using banners being tugged from an airplane, on top of a mountain, etc. Clearly, those moments are very emotional and romantic. Moreover, those moments usually include the giving of a sparkling engagement ring that costs more than two months of salary…and that is being conservative. In some cases, the romance is a fleeting moment and the parties never make it to the wedding. When that happens and the wedding is OFF, who gets the engagement ring?
In New Jersey an engagement ring is considered a “conditional gift”. In other words, the ring is being given on condition that the parties will be getting married. Winer v. Winer, 241 N.J. Super. 510 (App.Div. 1990). If the engagement is broken, the condition cannot be met and the ring must be returned. Aronow v. Silver, (Ch.Div. 1989.) Notably, while other states hold that the party who unjustifiably breaks off the engagement loses the ring, in New Jersey, the Courts do not consider fault when determining who is entitled to receive the engagement ring. Id. In New Jersey, if the marriage does not occur and the person giving the engagement ring wants the ring back, the Court will render a ruling requiring return of the ring (or its value if something untoward happens to the ring for example it gets lost or destroyed.) Once the marriage occurs and the condition is met, (regardless of a subsequent divorce), the return of the ring will not be required by the Court.
Therefore, in New Jersey, until the marriage occurs, the strings on the engagement ring are still attached and can be yanked regardless of who jilts who.