Post-Engagement Break-Ups: Who Keeps the Ring?

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Apr 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Even before a marriage is finalized, engaged couples may already face a host of legal issues. While a prenuptial agreement can prevent some complications later on, property issues may arise before a couple ever says “I do.” In a recent case, a couple landed in court after a man ended an engagement through text messages. The legal question involved a 2.97 carat diamond engagement ring valued at $53,000. According to reports, the bride-to-be received the ring in 2011 and was dumped by her fiancé in 2012 by text message, 14 months after she acquired the ring. Following the break-up, additional texts were exchanged, at least one indicating that the engagement ring was a “parting gift.”

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While courts have had differing opinions on who keeps the engagement ring, one thing never changes: no couple is insulated from legal drama before, during, or after the marriage. Our Birmingham divorce attorneysare experienced in the range of legal questions faced by Alabama families. We are dedicated to protecting our clients and staying abreast of the legal issues that impact divorce, child custody, and property after divorce. Our firm is also experienced with prenuptial agreements that can preempt a number of legal issues that may arise during or after a marriage.

In the recent case involving the engagement ring, the court ruled that the ring was a gift, based on the allegations as well as the text message evidence. This case also sheds light on the importance communications can play in court. With social media, smartphone technology, text apps and other forms of communication, individuals entering a divorce or facing a legal dispute should be extremely wary of what is said in a text. What you may believe to be a flippant comment could come back to influence the results in your case. The judge ruled that the ring was no longer in contemplation of marriage because the husband-to-be did not ask for it to be returned. He also called it a “parting gift.”

For individuals who are recently engaged, it is important to be aware of state laws that may impact your rights to property before, during and after divorce. In most states, rings are considered gifts upon condition of marriage. This means that it must be returned if a couple decides not to wed. The idea behind this analysis is that the engagement ring is a conditional gift, belonging to the receiver only if the marriage is finalized. In the event that an engagement is ended or the marriage is not going to take place, the wearer must return the ring. In this case, the ring was no longer considered an engagement ring or a conditional gift since the giver deemed the ring a “parting gift.” Courts have also ruled that gifts are irrevocable and cannot be reversed because of “giver's remorse.”

Laws involving property and marriage can be complicated. Whether you have given or received an engagement ring or you have already entered marriage, it is important to understand your rights and obligations. A prenuptial agreement can help both parties clarify their intentions and prevent future disputes. It can also help you protect your property rights and investments in the event of a divorce.

If you are seeking a divorce in Birmingham, contact Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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