Here is a question that divorce lawyers in Charleston have pondered – If a couple decides not to marry, then who gets to keep the engagement ring under South Carolina law? In the past, the belief was that if the giver of the ring (such as the husband-to-be) broke off the engagement, then the receiver of the ring (such as the bride-to-be) kept the ring, and vice versa.
In May 2012, the South Carolina Court of Appeals answered this question by ruling that the ring should be returned to whoever gave the ring, regardless of who cancels the engagement. The Court of Appeals reasoned that an engagement ring is a “gift that is impliedly conditioned upon the marriage taking place, [and until] the condition underlying the gift is fulfilled, the attempted gift is unenforceable and must be returned to the donor upon the donor’s request.” Campbell v. Robinson, Opinion No. 4969 (Ct. App. 2012). The Campbell Court also reaffirmed that a cause of action for breach of promise to marry still exists in South Carolina. If, for example, a potential husband breaks off an engagement with the bride-to-be, she can sue her fiancée for the loss of the monetary and social advantages of the promised marriage, mental anguish, humiliation, injury to health and psyche, and losses sustained from expenditures made in preparation of marriage.