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Diamond engagement rings are pricey -- and some become family heirlooms. The actual and emotional value of a ring can lead to big disputes when a couple splits up.

So who gets to keep the ring? Miss Manners may have one opinion on the matter, but here's what the law says you need to consider:

When did the breakup happen?

Did the relationship fall apart before you even made it to the altar? If so, you have to give the ring back -- or surrender its value to your ex.

Unlike some states, California directly addresses this situation. Under the law, an engagement ring is a "conditional gift" that is tied to a promise. That promise, naturally, was that you intended to get married. If the situation changes, the gift has to go back. If you sold the ring (or threw it in a lake), you're on the hook for what it cost your ex.

If you went through with the wedding, however, you've fulfilled the condition tied to the gift -- even if your marriage didn't last past the honeymoon.

Is there any other agreement in place?

You may still not be able to keep the ring, however, under some circumstances. For example, if you signed a prenuptial agreement that obligates you to return the ring in the event of a divorce, then you still probably have to give it back to your ex -- even if you've been married for a while.

This kind of agreement often comes in to play when an engagement ring is extremely valuable or has significant emotional significance to the giver.

When a marriage ends, the division of property can be complicated, so talk over each situation with an experienced attorney so that you understand your rights.

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