How Many Rings Are There in a Marriage and Must I Return Them in Divorce?

The Misconception of No-Fault Divorce

How Many Rings are There in a Marriage and Must I Return Them in Divorce?

Ok, so that’s a compound question.

First question, “How many rings are there in a marriage?”

Answer: 3! Engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.

Second question: must I return the rings?

That depends.  In the case of an engagement ring, there is an actual California law on this. Read Civil Code 1590, which states, “Where either party to a contemplated marriage in this State makes a gift of money or property to the other on the basis or assumption that the marriage will take place, in the event that the donee refuses to enter into the marriage as contemplated or that it is given up by mutual consent, the donor may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just.”

Basically, if the donor breaks it off, donee can keep it.

If donee breaks it off, donor can recover it.

If it’s mutual, donor can recover it.

Engagement Rings

Assume guy proposes to girl, gives her a ring.  In California, if girl, or both, call off the wedding, she must return the ring.  What if the giver, here the guy – calls off the wedding? There is a case, 96 Cal.App.2d 259, 17387, Simonian v. Donoian, suggesting in this case, girl can keep it.

Wedding Rings

What about wedding rings?  Wedding rings are given AFTER vows are exchanged, and after marriage has taken place.  Thus, under California Family Code 770, it is usually construed as a gift to the recipient, and thus wife’s separate property (except if it’s an inherited heirloom).  Thus, it is treated a little different than an engagement ring, which is given in exchange for a promise to marry.

Since all this law is confusing, it’s best to always have a prenuptial agreement addressing what happens in the event of a divorce – who gets what?


As for the last ring, suffering- well, I suppose the suffering ends when the marriage ends, and suffering divided is better than suffering doubled.  Divorces do teach you a lot of things…like fractions.

engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering
engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering




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