In our last post, we were talking about a professional football player, his ex-girlfriend and an engagement ring. He had mailed the engagement ring and a videotaped proposal to the girlfriend, only to have her say no. He demanded she return the ring. This is an interesting area of family law, really, that touches on contract law and property division — the promise to marry is an odd duck in the law.
At any rate, the would-be bride looked at the proposal and said no. Her father claims the player had met this initial refusal with an air of defiance. “I don’t want the ring back,” he reportedly told his beloved, adding, “You’ll eventually come back to me.”
But she didn’t. When the player accepted the fact he’d been turned down, he asked for the ring back.
All of this happened outside Illinois, but the law in that state is very similar to ours. The ring is a “conditional gift.” As Illinois case law puts it, “Gifts given in contemplation of marriage are deemed conditional on the subsequent marriage of the parties, and the party who fails to perform on the condition of the gift has no right to property acquired under such pretenses.” (Carroll v. Curry, 392 Ill.App.3d 511, June 2009)
The outcome of the ring dispute in both states depends on the nature of the breakup (the “failure to perform on the condition”). If the girlfriend were at fault, she would have to return it. If the breakup were mutual, the ring would go back to the player. In Illinois, the courts have not addressed what would have happened if the player were at fault.
This matter was settled before the case went to court. The father was apparently more than willing to return the ring to the athlete.
Source: Odessa American, “Dallas star wants ring back,” Jon Vanderlaan, 07/06/2011