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The Return of the Ring: Conditional gifts and family law (p. 1)

Ask any law school graduate in Atlanta -- or anywhere, for that matter -- what happens to an engagement ring if the wedding is called off, and you'll get one of two reactions: a strict recitation of the law or a knitted brow and a hand to the forehead, generally accompanied by an, "Oh, first year law school, Contracts. What was the rule again?"

The scenario is a staple in Contracts classes, but in practice the issue comes up in the context of family law. After all, there is the question of marriage, along with the property division issue.

An engagement ring case made headlines recently when a professional football player filed suit against his girlfriend, demanding the return of the ring he'd sent her -- strangely enough, through the mail.

The couple had apparently lived together for about a year. According to her father, they argued a lot. This past February, just before Valentine's Day, the professional athlete sent a package to the girlfriend and her family. Inside were gifts for family members and his girlfriend's brother, as well as a videotaped proposal and a $76,000 engagement ring.

This last part was detailed in court documents, as was the girlfriend's response: She said no. And when he asked for the ring back, she demurred for a few weeks before finally telling him she'd lost it.

He filed an insurance claim, and, as with any claim for an item of value, an investigator looked into the loss. The ring wasn't lost at all, it turned out. The woman's father had it.

The woman's father, in fact, claims he'd had it all along, and that neither he nor his daughter had ever told the player that the ring was lost.

What happened next? We'll continue the story in our next post.

Source: Odessa American, "Dallas star wants ring back," Jon Vanderlaan, 07/06/2011

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