Who gets the engagement ring after a divorce? What about when an engagement is called off? Minnesota law provides pretty straightforward answers when these questions are considered separately, but things get fuzzy when you look at the answers together. Post-marriage, because the engagement ring is acquired before the marriage, it is nonmarital and goes to the recipient. Linderman v. Linderman, 364 N.W.2d 872 (Minn. App. 1985). If an engagement is called off before marriage, the ring must be returned to the donor regardless of who called it off or why (the “no-fault” rule), partly because the ring is a conditional gift, only becoming “absolute” when the marriage occurs. Benassi v. Back and Neck Pain Clinic, 629 N.W.2d 475 (Minn. App. 2001). Wait a minute; didn’t Linderman say it’s nonmarital because it was acquired before the marriage? Additionally, isn’t marital property acquired “subsequent” to the marriage? See Minn. Stat. §518.64. Maybe one could say it is nonmarital because it was given (just not vested) before the marriage. I prefer to argue that it’s neither marital nor nonmarital, because the giving was only absolute at the precise, incalculable moment between engagement and marriage. And, I recommend donating all engagement ring divorce proceeds to the Recovering Family Lawyer Relief Fund.
Mark A. Haase
The Councilon Crime & Justice