Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular days to get engaged! Along with Christmas and New Years, Valentine’s Day is the holiday for popping the question. But who gets the RING if things don’t pan out?
In Mississippi, the ring is a pre-marriage gift. It can be argued that the ring is actually a conditional gift creating a contractual obligation. How Romantic!
Here’s the scenario. An offer of marriage is proposed and a ring given in exchange for a “Yes,” being an agreement to marry. So long as both parties uphold their end; the fellow gives the ring and the lady marries the fellow = offer + acceptance & valuable consideration. At this point the contract is fulfilled and the rings is now the property of the lady. But what if they were only married for a minute? Well, if they married the contract is fulfilled. Certainly, there could be exceptions due to fraud or overreaching, but these are not typical.
The chancellor properly concluded that the engagement ring was a gift from [the fellow] to [the lady]. That gift necessarily predated the marriage of the parties. Thus, it was an asset brought by [the lady] into the marriage and was not a marital asset subject to equitable division. MacDonald v. MacDonald, 698 So.2d 1079 (¶ 13) (Miss.1997). It was, therefore, beyond the chancellor’s authority to order [the lady] to return possession of that item to [the fellow] and his refusal to do so cannot constitute reversible error on appeal. Neville v. Neville, 734 So.2d 352 (Ms.App. 1997).
What if she backs out prior to the marriage? He may get the ring back…unless it was his fault. Now this can be tricky. How does one determine whose fault it is? This is a factual determination and for the Judge to decide in the event that it winds up in Court.
This is the argument. The ring given was given in consideration of the promise of a marital contract, and if the marriage did take place Wife keeps even in divorce, absent fraud or overreaching. However, if the Wife accepts the ring in contemplation of and in consideration for the marriage and then the “marriage” never materializes, then the fellow is entitled to the ring.
Want to be safe, legally speaking anyway? Then make your marriage proposal contingent, as follows*:
I love you and desire to marry you. As a symbol of same, I am making a wholly contingent offer to you of this ring, of significant monetary and sentimental value, but a likewise sizable lien against same, in exchange for your promise to marry me. In the event that we do NOT get married, then said ring shall be returned to me in the same condition as presented, or alternatively you may elect to assume said lien, in full, for said ring and shall indemnify and defend me from any liability thereon. ‘Will you accept this rose?'” *(a paraphrase of colleague J. Kitchens)
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney that you can engage in the event you need a divorce, and if you use the above contingent marriage proposal, you just might!
You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@wmtlawfirm.com.