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Who gets the ring if the wedding is called off?

Coloradans are a down to earth bunch, but it is not uncommon these days to hear about big-ticket weddings or splashy destination weddings on a beach in Mexico or Hawaii. Another increasingly common sight is an expensive engagement ring. Whether it is celebrities posting on Instagram or professionals with successful careers, a big rock continues to be a popular statement.

However, not all marriages work out, and neither do the engagements. Sadly, there is the emotional turmoil of the relationship falling apart just when the couple are about to make the ultimate commitment. There are also serious questions about property like a wedding ring, particularly if a large sum was spent. Does the person who bought the expensive ring have a right to ask for it back?

Fault comes into play

There is no law on the books here in Colorado that directly addresses an engagement ring, but the conditional gift designation is often applied to determine ownership of a ring as well as other property purchased in preparation of the wedding. Theoretically, the ring is given on the condition that there will be a marriage.

The ring would be the bride’s to keep if there had been a wedding and the condition had been met. However, if the wedding is called off by the fiance who bought the ring, the fiance and her attorney could still argue that it was due to the actions of the male fiancé that prevented her from going through with wedding. Thus she would have a good chance of getting the ring. If she terminated the relationship after having an affair with a colleague at work or for some other reason related to poor conduct on the part of the bride, the man would likely be within his right to ask for the ring back. If she terminated the engagement because he was abusing her or he was having an affair, then she would likely get to keep the ring.

Colorado law

Colorado is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce, but that is not the case for engagements. Fault would indeed determine the ownership of the ring (or other property). There can be other mitigating factors as well, such as one party was still married to someone else when the ring was given.  If issues regarding ownership of the ring arise before a marriage, the legal action is in a general civil case.  Ideally, an attorney can work with both sides to resolve the matter without litigation, which can cause additional stress and frustration. However, determining fault may require a ruling from a judge or arbiter. Regardless of the circumstances, an attorney can skillfully guide a client through the process while protecting his or her rights.

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