Broken engagement -- who gets the ring in New York State?

engagement ringNo doubt many people will be getting engaged today with hopes of a long, happy life together. But what seems like a great idea this Valentine's Day... sometimes doesn't seem so great by next Valentine's Day.

So, you decide to go your separate ways. But who gets the ring? It turns out New York State actually has laws about these situations. (Of course, we have laws for everything here.)

A state law enacted in 1935 basically says that you can't sue someone for backing out of an engagement. But a 1965 addition to that law (that would be New York Civil Rights Law Section 80-b), gave ring-givers the right to ask for the ring back. (Or, as the law puts it, "Nothing in this article contained shall be construed to bar a right of action for the recovery of a chattel." Who says there isn't romance in the law?) That law, along with various court cases, has made engagement rings in New York State conditional gifts governed by "no-fault" rules. That means if the engagement doesn't result in marriage -- the ring goes back to the giver. Even if the recipient skips out to another state.

But, wait, there's more. If the ring-giver was still married when he or she proposed, the ring is no longer a conditional gift -- it's just a regular gift. And those don't have to be returned. (There was actually a case, Marshall v. Cassano, where this was decided.)

So, the short story in New York State...
+ Broken engagement where both people weren't married at the time of the proposal: ring goes back to the giver.
+ Broken engagement where the giver was still married: good luck with that.

Not that you'll ever need to know any of this.

Happy Valentine's Day.

photo by Flickr user Rose Davies, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license


I have a question about this law when both parties are married. It seems as though Marshall, being the male has broken off the engagement and Cassano keeps the ring.

How would it work of both parties were married and Cassano, being the female broke off the engagement. Would she then be entitled to still keep the ring by law or have to return it?

Not a lawyer, as they say, but my read is that it's the status of the giver that determines whether it's a gift or not -- the status of the recipient doesn't matter. So it's as the story said -- if the giver is married, it's not a conditional gift and need not be returned.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

A future that's up in the air

The recent incident in which a guy is accused of crashing a drone into a chimney of the state Capitol building got us thinking about... (more)

48 stories

Over at the Biz Review Mike DeMasi got a look at one of the until-now-undisclosed proposals for the former Albany convention center land that (apparently)... (more)

PechaKucha is back at the Opalka Gallery

The local PechaKucha series returns to the Opalka Gallery on the Sage Albany campus this Friday. The lineup (so far) posted includes short talks on... (more)

A synthetic DNA signature

There are a bunch of interesting angles to this NYT article about efforts by researchers at UAlbany create synthetic DNA-based tags for authenticating art work,... (more)

Baklava at Athos

Lately, I've been feeling wanderlusty. Don't get me wrong -- Upstate New York in fall is a wonderful place to be. I relish and marvel... (more)

Recent Comments

I'm actually slightly worried that I'm going to enter one of our fine "curated" establishments in Troy and find a framed pothole hanging on the wall, now...

Baklava at Athos

...has 1 comment, most recently from Beck

A quick look at how Albany's red light camera system has started off

...has 4 comments, most recently from Willie Williams

Map quiz: up there

...has 4 comments, most recently from Greg

The week ahead

...has 2 comments, most recently from Dan Roesser

Today's moment of autumn

...has 3 comments, most recently from Paul