You would think that by now Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Faith Hill, Keith Uban, Martina McBride or even Taylor Swift would have a song about giving back the ring over a broken engagement. Certainly Brad Paisley or Sugarland should have a broken engagement ring litigation song.  Maybe Phill Vaser should be the one to sing it. At the end of this post I'll add Phil Vasser - Just Another Day in Paradise. The words could be something like this; be kind I'm not a song writer.  

I asked you for your hand in marriage,

thinking we'd last forever.

But this thing we have, 

just doesn't shine any more.

So I'm showing you the door,

because frankly you're a bore.

I want you to put it back in my hand,

just like a little grain of sand.

You know that little ring of gold,

What? The one you sold?

She's saying she threw it in the river,

No I won't forgive her.

I've got a lawyer,

instead of a preacher.

Now give me back the ring

Okay, I'm first to admit that was bad. So let’s get back to what I know how to do. Like justice a marital engagement is a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways. I’ve written twice about broken engagements and what happens to the engagement ring. Those two blog posts are some of the most widely read that I’ve written.

The posts are on both The Verdict and The InjuryBoard.

Family Law – Broken Heart – Must I Give Back the Engagement Ring?


Family Law: Breaking up is hard to do.

Family Law: Electronic surveillance of wife's bedroom activity leads to $22,500 judgment

In Iowa we are lucky enough to have a case that is right on point.


In the case of John Fierro vs. Janna Hoel, 465 N.W.2d 669 (Iowa App. 1990) the Iowa Court of Appeals took up this issue and decided as a conditional gift the ring must be returned if the marriage was never to be. The Court found an engagement ring is given in contemplation of marriage as a conditional gift. And if the marriage never happens the ring must be returned to the donor.

As clear as this case seems to be let’s not forget the other edge of the sword. I think if the issue were properly presented the decision might be expanded to include a counterclaim for wedding expenses incurred by the bride. In the State of New York there is an exception to this general rule. If the person asking for the other’s hand in marriage is already married then he can not legally contract to marry; and so the condition upon which the ring is given cannot be made; and so the woman in that case got to keep the ring. I’m not sure I agree with this reasoning but that’s the law in New York.

“In New York, the exception to the to the rule is that if the man is married when he proposes and gives an engagement ring to his second bride-to-be, he cannot legally contract to marry. If the second marriage does not take place, he does not get the ring back.”

Quote from Daniel Clement, Broken Engagement – Who Keeps the Ring



There aren’t many Iowa Princes spending $100,000 on an engagement ring. Sooner or later you need to closet the emotions and ask yourself this question. Is filing a lawsuit really worth the time and expense?

Not ever case is like Gerald Tsai vs. Sharon Bush involving an 11-carat canary-diamond ring worth an estimated $243,040. In Iowa we have no-fault divorce and so going-hand-in-hand goes no fault engagements.


A young man recently contacted me and wanted to know how to get the ring back. Well the answer to that question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. You can sue in small claims court but to do it right you have to be prepared. So to assist him and now you I’ve come up with a list of questions along with documentary evidence you’ll need to represent yourself in court. If you’re going to try and represent yourself you might as well have some idea about how to do it right. So answer these questions and assemble the documents and you’ll be 60% ready to head off to being a gun slinging small claim trial lawyer.

(If you want to sell that engagement ring there is always online sales )

Don’t be overconfident because representing yourself is very hard to do. Remember the saying, “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.  So don’t go off half cocked thinking just because you’ve got answers and documents you’re going to necessarily win.

Guys a word of advice to you is in order. Before you ask someone to marry you, make sure you understand that people are going to be spending a lot of money on preparations and if you or she pulls out someone has to accept responsibility for the debt you’ve partially created. Think of proposing marriage as a if you were standing in front of snowball set on a steep hill. Once it gets rolling stopping it may very well get your battered and bruised.

I think the short answer is the ring has to go back to the giver, the guy. But if the receiver has wedding expenses, like a wedding dress, she too may have a claim against the fiancé.  Like marriage justice is a two-edged sword; meaning it cuts both ways.


How much is the claim worth?

What is the purchase price of the ring?

Who owns the claim and should be the named parties?

Who actually paid for the ring? Was the groom or his parents or friends?

Who was supposed to get married? Who asked who to be engaged?

Where should you file the claim?

In what state and county do you live?

In what county does she live?

In what county were you engaged?

What’s the date of to allege?

On what date were you engaged?

On what date did you present her with the ring?

Is this an “engagement ring” or a gift of friendship?

Did you propose at the same time as the ring presentation?

What did you say to her when you presented the ring?

Is there any other reason why the ring was given? If so what purpose?

What does the other party claim to be the reason the ring should not be returned?

Who can help the court understand the facts?

Were there any witnesses?

Was there an engagement announcement placed in any newspaper?

If so, what paper and date?

Do you have a copy of the engagement announcement?

If the ring is destroyed or not available, how much should you claim in damages?

Where did you purchase the ring?

Do you have a copy of the receipt?

Do you have a photograph of the ring?

Do you have an appraisal of the ring?

Describe the ring? What type of gem? What grade? What cut? How many carats? What rating and from what gemologist?

Will she file a countersuit?

Do you owe her any money?

What is the date when you were to be married?

Have wedding arrangements been made?

Have costs been incurred for the pending wedding, reception or honeymoon?

If so who paid for those expenses?

If she files a countersuit can you offset her claimed expenses?

Have you incurred any additional expenses?

What wedding expenses will the other party claim are owed?

What wedding expenses will the other party claim they've incurred?


Do you have proof of any expenses you've paid?

What witnesses do you have to each item above?

One final question:

Are you sure you don't want to get married? Be sure because marriage is tough but it's worth every broken dish, every argument and every dream you never realized because of paying for diapers, little shoes and the next plumbing bill.  Keep in mind that you can always delay the wedding while you try to work things out.

Phil Vassar - Just Another Day In Paradise





























































Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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