Who gets to keep diamond ring if engagement goes sour?

·2 min read

Oct. 19—Who gets the engagement ring if the wedding never happens?

A Los Angeles man seeking the return of a $20,000 diamond ring says in a petition filed in state District Court his former fiancée, Karen Doyle of Santa Fe, believes the jewel was a gift to her and she intends to keep it.

But Richard Ballard Jr. cites in his petition a 1994 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that found acceptance of such a gift comes with expectations.

"If the wedding is called off, for whatever reason, the gift is not capable of becoming a completed gift and must be returned to the donor," then Justice Gene E. Francihini wrote in the decision.

New Mexico is one of several states that consider an engagement ring a gift with a legal condition: the promise of wedlock.

Ballard's complaint says he and Doyle, both 72, were planning to marry early this year. He purchased the ring and gave it to her Jan. 20. Then "the relationship soured and the wedding did not take place." When he asked for the ring back, Ballard says in his complaint, Doyle initially said "she would think about it" but later told him she considered it a gift.

"The condition of marriage associated with the engagement ring has not been fulfilled," the petition says. "In light of clear case law, Doyle should promptly return the ring to Ballard."

Ballard is asking the court to order Doyle to return the ring within 10 days.

Doyle did not respond to messages seeking comment Monday.

Ballard and his attorney, Mary Ann Burmester, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

In the petition, Burmester notes the state Supreme Court ruled in the 1994 dispute over an engagement ring it doesn't matter who is to blame for a canceled wedding; it should be treated like any other contractual default, and the ring should return to the person who purchased it.

In that case — Vigil v. Haber — the Supreme Court noted "the modern trend toward the abandonment of fault in domestic relations cases."

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