A young couple walks hand-in-hand down the sidewalk in downtown Norfolk, reminiscing about the past and how they met. Both pause as something falls from his pocket to tinkle on the ground behind them. Their hands come apart as he stoops to retrieve what he has lost.
Instead of straightening up, he remains on one knee. She gasps as he looks up, holding a small circle of sparkly gold.
“Will you accept my conditional gift?”
Our society has come a long way since the days of dowries and forging alliances through marriage, and yet we still have a few hang-ups about that whole ‘eternal love’ thing. If you or a loved one is planning to propose soon, read on. You may be surprised at just how conditional ‘unconditional love’ can be.
There are legal implications that spring into action the moment those four little words are unleashed: “Will you marry me?” Popping the question and receiving an affirmative response does not mean that the couple is already married, but it does have some smaller, more subtle legal implications. For instance, if you two lovebirds break up before the big day (heaven forbid!), then whoever purchased the ring may have a better case for keeping it.
Different states have different laws regarding the issue. In California, for instance, whoever initiated the break-up will most likely not get to keep that conditional gift, whether they purchased it or not. In other states, such as Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the purchaser is the owner, period.
Then there’s Montana, the only state to consider a wedding ring an Unconditional Gift. Whether or not marriage happens, a gift is a gift, and the courts will not force its wearer to return it.
If you’re having problems with your love life, and you’ve got a broken engagement on your hands, contact the lawyers at Montagna Law for a free consultation.
Jon Montagna received a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from American University in Washington D.C. and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1999. Jon practices law in the Hampton Roads Virginia area.