By Jessica L. Leischner

Engagements, unfortunately, don’t always lead to wedded bliss. Sometimes a fiancé discovers he or she is in love with the engagement ring — but not with the person who proposed marriage — and wants to hang on to the valuable bauble after the breakup.

Recent Engagement Ring Cases

A recent Lord of the Rings battle involves a New York couple battling over a ring valued at $48,300, along with $12K worth of furniture–and to add insult to injury, a dog. The former groom-to-be is suing his ex-fiance, demanding it all, plus $65,000 in damages.

A similar standoff in Virginia was finally resolved this past December by the Virginia Court of Appeals, which ruled that the ring must be returned to the ex-groom. “Virginia defines an engagement ring as a ‘conditional gift’ — in other words, the ring is given on the condition that a legal wedding will take place,” says Jessica Leischner, a partner at the Alexandria law firm of Wade Grimes Friedman Meinken & Leischner PLLC.

Who Keeps the Engagement Ring in Virginia?

So, a ring that was given on the condition of a legal wedding remains the property of the person who gave it, not the fiancé who received it — at least in Virginia.

Of course, the law has its twists and turns. In another case Leischner handled, the couple actually held a marriage ceremony and then split soon thereafter. But the ruling was still the same–the ring was conditional and had to be returned to the ex-groom. Why? Because while the couple had said their “I do’s,” the marriage wasn’t legal because they never got around to actually getting an official marriage license.

About the Author

This is a photo of Jessica Leischner. She is a family law attorney at Old Town Lawyers.

Jessica L. Leischner

Jessica L. Leischner is partner with Wade, Grimes, Friedman, Meinken & Leischner, PLLC. As an accomplished family law attorney, litigator and mediator serving Northern Virginia, Ms. Leischner represents clients in Fairfax County, Alexandria City, Arlington County, Loudoun County, Stafford County, and Prince William County. Ms. Leischner’s practice is exclusively in the area of family law, including divorce, child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, equitable distribution, settlement agreements, property rights, post-divorce disputes and other family law matters.


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