Massachusetts law about engagement rings

A compilation of cases and web sources on what happens to an engagement ring after a breakup.

Table of Contents

Selected case law

De Cicco v. Barker, 339 Mass. 457 (1959)
"It is generally held that an engagement ring is in the nature of a pledge, given on the implied condition that the marriage shall take place. If the contract to marry is terminated without fault on the part of the donor he may recover the ring."

Bowser v. Daly, 2006 Mass. Super. LEXIS 532, 2006 WL 3293414 (Middlesex Superior Court)
"While both engaged in a heated altercation ..., it was undisputed that it was she who struck him, and the Court finds that this blow, rather than anything that he did, was the precipitating cause of their break-up. In these instances, he is entitled to have the ring returned."

Poirier v. Raad, 1995 Mass. Super. LEXIS 843, 3 Mass. Law Reporter 265 (Worcester Superior Court)
"The person who terminates an engagement is not necessarily 'at fault.' Some engagements may be terminated by mutual agreement. Some engagements may be terminated by one party because of the other party's improper behavior…"

Web sources

Engagement rings, Mass. Legal Help, 2019
Briefly discusses who gets the ring both when a couple doesn't marry and after they do

Returning an engagement ring,
Discusses the issue of engagement rings nationally

What happens to the engagement ring in a broken engagement?, Findlaw.
Explains the 3 ways courts across the country may treat an engagement ring.

Who gets the engagement ring when the wedding is called off?, Alan Pransky, Esq., March 2013
Also discusses what happens to the ring if there is a divorce

Print sources

Cause of action for recovery of gift given in contemplation of marriage, 63 Causes of Action 2d 587

Family law and practice with forms, 4th ed. (Mass. Practice v. 1-3), West Group, with supplement. Section 18:1 The engagement to marry.

Procedural forms annotated, 6th ed.  (Mass, practice v.  10-10C), West Group, with supplement. Section 115:2 Equitable action to recover engagement ring.

Procedural forms annotated, 6th ed.  (Mass, practice v.  10-10C), West Group, with supplement. Section 79:77 Interrogatories in equitable replevin of engagement ring.

Rights in respect of engagement and courtship presents when marriage does not ensue, 44 ALR, 5th 1.

A treatise on the law of contracts, 4th ed. West Group, with supplement. Section 62:28 Engagement ring and gifts.



Law library locations and phone numbers Library locations 
Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email
Last updated: April 8, 2022