19 September 2013

Broken Engagements: Who gets the ring?

The CBC has reported on a ridiculously fractious former couple, under the descriptive headline "Estranged Couple Squares Off Over $16K Engagement Ring." (What's ridiculous is that at least one of them seems to think that it's cost-effective to start a lawsuit with such a low potential pay day.) Since engagements get broken all the time, you might wonder what the rules are, and actually it's pretty straightforward.

Under the old law of domestic relations, when a marriage proposal is accepted, a contract is formed. In fact, you used to be able to sue for breach of promise to marry. When the contract is breached, the person who breaches the contract is not entitled to the ring. In other words, if the proposer breaks it off, the other person gets to keep the ring; if the person accepting the proposal breaks it off, the proposer gets the ring back.

I wish this former couple the very best of luck in resolving their case for less than the replacement cost of the ring at issue.