Are Diamonds Forever? (A Guide to Engagement Ring Disputes)
A brief summary of the law on engagement ring disputes in South Carolina. Find out who gets to keep the ring in a variety of circumstances.
Are Diamonds Forever?According to Business Insider in 2017 South Carolinians spent an average of $8,599 on engagement rings. (https://www.businessinsider.com/engagement-ring-average-cost-by-state-2018-2#6-massachusetts-8426-46) With numbers like that it’s no surprise that when relationships get rocky, who gets to keep the ring is a common controversy. Surprisingly, when the breakup happens is more important than who caused it when deciding who gets to keep the ring.
In South Carolina, an engagement ring is viewed as a conditional gift. As explained in Campbel v. Robinson, 398 S.C. 12, 725 S.E.2d 221 (S.C. App, 2012) “an engagement ring . . . is impliedly conditioned upon the marriage taking place, [and until] the condition underlying the gift is fulfilled, the attempted gift is unenforceable and must be returned to the donor upon the donor’s request.” Therefore, if the couple breaks up before the marriage, whichever party gave the engagement ring generally has the right to ask for it back regardless of who caused the breakup. Of course, because the couples were never married, if the issue has to be litigated it will be in civil court instead of family court.
On the other hand, if the couple breaks up after they are married it may be a different matter as the condition for the gift was fulfilled when the marriage took place. The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that “[a]n antenuptial gift of an engagement ring is the recipient’s separate property.” Frank v. Frank, 429 S.E.2d 823, 311 S.C. 454 (S.C. App., 1993) In other words, the court determined that the ring was not marital property and therefore not subject to equitable division by the Family Court. This may cause some people to think twice before giving the family heirloom engagement ring away. Although it may be possible to protect an heirloom ring with a prenuptial agreement.
DisclaimerNothing in this article is intended to constitute legal advice or create an attorney – client relationship with the reader.