Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Whose Ring Is It Anyway?

Whose Ring Is It Anyway?

I recently read an article in WSJ Law Blog which raised an interesting question.

“When an engagement breaks up, who gets the ring?”

If you watch many movies, you’ve seen the question resolved in a number of dramatic ways. The bride-to-be tosses the ring at her fiancé and runs dramatically from the room. Or, the ring is left on the table next to an explanatory note. Naturally, melancholy music plays in the background. I’ve even seen a scene where the groom –to-be swallows the ring. Ugh!

The real question becomes what is the legal ruling on ownership of the ring. Laws vary from state to state depending on the specific circumstances in each instance. San Diego-based speaker, author, and lawyer Jeff Isaac says that the common-law rule is that an engagement ring is a conditional gift — it is given (often but not always) by a man to a woman with the express condition that the recipient go ahead with the marriage.

In California, this apparently happens so often that the state legislature passed a law. CA Civil Code 1590 states:

“Where either party to a contemplated marriage in this State makes a gift of money or property to the other on the basis or assumption that the marriage will take place, in the event that the donee refuses to enter into the marriage as contemplated or that it is given up by mutual consent, the donor may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just.”

You might wonder what happens when the giver backs out, against the will of the recipient. Isaac says that, generally speaking, if the giver is the one who gets cold feet, then he (or she as the case might be) gives up the right to the ring.
Of course, the facts surrounding “engagement-ring law,” says Isaac, are rarely so simple. Someone officially breaking off the engagement could, of course, say that he or she had no choice, that the other person’s hitherto undiscovered behavior was so intolerable, for example, that it effectively ended the engagement. Isaac says application of this law is “rarely black and white, but almost always gray.”

Well, when you watch the next movie where the bride-to-be pockets the huge diamond engagement ring she’s been given, regardless of what the director or the script says, you can bet that litigation will follow and may the best man (or woman) win.

Source: WSJ Law Blog:
The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog covers the notable legal cases, trends and personalities of interest to the business community. Ashby Jones is the lead writer. Ashby has covered the legal and business worlds for over a decade. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a litigator at a large law firm and clerked for a federal judge.

No comments:

Post a Comment