Engagement Ring and Contemplation of Marriage – Divorce Lawyer in Westbury

Long Island’s Best Divorce Lawyer said the issue in this case was whether a diamond ring was “given in contemplation of marriage, or was [it] given as a complete gift?” The Plaintiff contends he paid for the diamond ring with his own money and gave it to the Defendant as an engagement ring. The relationship between the parties ended following an incident of domestic violence and the Plaintiff sought the return of the ring.


A Nassau County Divorce Attorney said the Court discussed Civil Rights Law Section 80-b and its application by New York Courts. Section 80-b allows for the recovery of a gift if the gift is made in contemplation of marriage. The tradition of this principle is that the ring is the property of the male donor when an engagement is terminated. The Court stated that “even prior to the enactment of the anti-heart balm legislation, cases held that ‘the donee of the ring receives, at the time of the gift, only the right of possession. Firm ownership passes only upon the performance of marriage.’” However, where there is a “genuine dispute as to the circumstances under which the ring was given, a trial to determine fact is necessary.”


Following a fact finding hearing, the Court ultimately held that the Plaintiff “failed to sustain his burden by preponderance of the evidence that the ring was solely given to the Defendant in contemplation of marriage.” The only two witnesses to testify were the parties, and all that was entered into evidence was the business card of the jeweler and an invoice. The Court looked at the totality of the circumstances and determined the ring was given as a gift, not in contemplation of marriage. It looked at the following facts:

  • The Court credited the Defendant’s testimony that the ring was “for giving the Plaintiff a son and being a good mother;”
  • the invoice made no mention of the ring as an engagement ring;
  • the Plaintiff and Defendant referred to each other as husband and wife prior to the ring being given as a gift;
  • a domestic partnership existed prior to the date the ring was given as a gift;
  • the parties had a prior history of exchanging gifts with each other;
  • the Defendant contributed $1,000 down and $4,500 from her tax return for the purchase of the ring; and
  • there was no engagement announcement nor a wedding venue booked.