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The Return of the Ring: Conditional gifts and family law (p. 2)

We're continuing the story of a football player who proposed to his girlfriend through the mail. He also sent her a $76,000 engagement ring. When she said no, he asked her to return the ring. Not surprisingly, this can be a contentious family law issue, even in Georgia.

The argument over the ring turned into a "he said, she said" story -- he said she'd told him she'd lost it, and she said, through her father, that she'd never told him such a thing. She said, in fact, that he had told her to hold onto it, because she would change her mind and go back to him.

In the end, the father had it and was apparently all too happy to give it back.

Georgia has no specific case law or statute to govern the question. The common law rule is that the engagement ring -- a conditional gift made in contemplation of marriage -- goes back to the donor if the contract is broken. The one similar case in the state talks about a gift of real estate, not an engagement ring. Nonetheless, the gift was made on the condition of marriage, and the marriage did not take place. The real estate was returned to the would-be fiancé.

In some states, the terms of the break-up can influence the outcome of this argument. If the football player had acted fraudulently -- if he were already married, for example -- the woman could have kept the ring. As states move more and more to no-fault divorce, though, one wonders if that kind of fault scheme would still be applicable to the engagement ring question.

The football player took his ex-girlfriend and her father to court over the matter. The case was settled just before a hearing.

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

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