With the holiday season upon us, happy couples all over the country are about to become engaged. A momentous occasion such as an engagement is often followed with well-wishes and a lot of excitement. It is also often followed with the one proposing giving their newly-minted fiancé a beautiful engagement ring.
Unfortunately, not every engagement ends in marriage. As family law attorneys, we often get asked, what happens to the ring when an engaged couple breaks up before they are married? Who gets to keep that sparkly ring? The answer is that even though the proposing party may have “put a ring on it,” the marriage has to actually occur for the one given the ring to keep it.
In Pennsylvania, engagement rings are considered a “conditional gift.” What this means is that ownership of said gift comes with the condition that you fulfill the related obligation. In the case of an engagement ring, one must marry the other in order to satisfy the condition that the engagement ring requires: marriage. If the two parties do not marry, the condition has not been satisfied, and the ring must be returned.
Once the parties are married, the ring is then considered a gift. Gifts from one spouse to another are an exception to the standard division of marital property. Should the couple divorce down the line, the ring will be the property of the person it was given to. However, any increase in value of the ring or any improvements made to the ring during the marriage will be considered marital property, and will be subject to division between the two parties.