Who Keeps the Engagement Ring When the Wedding Is Called Off?

Some say a diamond is forever, but if you're dumped before you make it to the altar, the ring may not be yours to keep after all.

New Yorker Rena Friedman is the latest bride-to-be, according to published reports, who has had the man she was supposed to marry take her to court over the very engagement ring he gave her when he proposed late last year.

In Friedman's case, the diamond and platinum bling is worth $58,000, and according to the New York Post, her ex-fiance, Roger Adler, wants it back, alleging that Friedman always intended to dump him before they walked down the aisle.

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Adler, who is an ophthalmologist, in Ohio, did not return multiple messages left by ABCNews.com, but told the paper that Friedman refused to return the ring even though the engagement only lasted 12 days. He also alleges, according to the Post, that Friedman lied about her age and that he suspects she has duped other men in the past into proposing to her so that she could keep the ring for herself.

Friedman also did not return messages left at her New York City home.

Friedman's lawyer, Mark Nussbaum of Altman Schochet LLP, released a statement on behalf of his client.

"Roger Adler seems unconstrained by the truth in his recent remarks to the media," said Nussbaum. "His penchant for revisionist history will be addressed in the proper forum. While Mr. Adler has chosen to enjoy his 15 seconds of fame disparaging a former girlfriend in the public spotlight, Ms. Friedman has no desire to air her personal heartache in tabloid articles or television shows."

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Legal experts saidthe dispute over who gets to keep the ring when an engagement goes sour is more common than one might think and that the law governing these so-called "conditional gifts" varies from state to state.

According to Joanna Grossman, a professor of law at Hofstra University, the majority of states view an engagement ring as a conditional gift that hinges on a marriage taking place.

"If the condition of the gift fails, or in the case if the engagement is called off, the gift has to be returned," Grossman said.

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But depending on where you live, Grossman said, these disputes can get more complicated.

Some states consider a defendant's argument that the ring is just like any other gift, and that it should not be returned. Some will even hear arguments that the ring was simply a Christmas gift or a birthday present if the proposal took place on a special occasion.

Other states will look at who is at fault, and will consider who broke off the engagement and who, therefore, should be permitted to keep the ring, she said.

"Some courts will rule that yes, the condition for the ring failed and there was no wedding but that the groom was at fault and he called off the engagement, so he shouldn't be able to keep the ring," Grossman said.

Looking at who is at fault for a broken engagement, though, is not common, Grossman said, and usually if the man bought the ring he will be awarded custody of it in the court of law.

In New York, where Adler filed the suit against Friedman, fault for the breakup is not considered and Grossman said the court is likely to rule in his favor.

"Unless there are other facts that we don't know about, the court will clearly have discretion to order the return of the ring [to Adler]," she said.

Joanne Ross Wilder, who in 1999 successfully argued for her client to receive the $21,000 engagement ring that his ex-fiancee refused to return, said her case was based on the argument that it should not matter who was at fault for the termination of the engagement.

Wilder's client, Rodger Lindh, had, in fact, been the one to cause the split.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ultimately held that engagement rings are conditional gifts," Wilder said. "They're a unique kind of gift that is conditioned when the marriage takes place. So if the marriage does not take place, the gift is not completed and the ring must be returned."

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"It doesn't matter who broke the engagement. The purpose of the engagement is preliminary to the marriage and isn't it better to break the engagement than to enter into an unhappy marriage and get divorced later?" she said.

And for those who may not take their argument over the ring to court, Anna Post of The Emily Post Institute said the bride-to-be should always give back the rock, no matter how big or beautiful it may be.

Here's the deal, according to Post: If she breaks it off, the classy thing to do is to return the ring. Think of it this way, she said, you're not going to be marrying this person, so why hold on to a token of a promise of a life you're not going to share together.

Even if the man breaks off the engagement, Post said, the right thing to do is to return the ring, especially if it is a family heirloom. She added that this is the case even when women feel as though they are "owed" something for an engagement gone awry.

"Holding a ring hostage to get back at someone just isn't a good idea," Post said. "Save it for that 'Bridezillas' television show."