|if it’s this one the answer is no one. eek!
A few weeks ago my co-workers and I got involved in a heated debate over the issue of who “owns” the engagement after a failed engagement. It’s worth mentioning that my co-workers are five, mostly-married men.
I was championing a very specific position – well positions – relative to who did the breaking up, who did the proposing, and if the ring was a family heirloom. One among my co-workers was very ardently championing another – as in so ardently that the words, “I’d sue for theft,” came out of his mouth, and then he called his lawyer on speaker so we could all hear whether or not he’d have a case – hypothetically speaking of course. This, apparently, is the way you settle a debate in L.A. Whomever’s assistant is within shouting reach gets that executive’s lawyer on the phone and tells him, “no, it can’t wait” or, “he needs 5” (this means minutes). It’s really something to behold.
I want to make very clear that I do not know the real answer to this question and do not have a lawyer to call and ask. My position on the issue of who gets the ring is based on who I believe deserves the ring. There may be a legal answer. There may be a better, moral answer. This is just my answer making it meaningless unless you intend to propose to me and then eventually break off the engagement. Which, if that’s your intention, how dare you read this blog!
Okay – Scenario #1. Man proposes, man breaks off engagement, however both man and woman agree that the engagement is best broken.
So it’s as “mutual break up” as the situation can get (though as I’ve said, I don’t believe there’s such thing as a mutual break up. Someone always has the idea first, and wants it more). I leave the decision around who gets the ring up to this seemingly rational couple. It was a gift to the woman, so maybe the man lets her keep it as a, “sorry this didn’t work out.” It was an incredible expensive gift, so maybe the woman gives it back as a, “let’s just call this a wash.” Or maybe these two are so into the whole mutual nature of the un-arrangement that they pawn the ring and split the money? Seems unlikely, but I’m sure stranger things have happened.
Scenario #2. Man proposes, man breaks off engagement, woman is shocked/heartbroken/confused.Sorry but the ring remains in the court of that poor girl. This may be wildly unpopular (like it most certainly was in my office of five men), but you don’t break a girl’s heart and then ask for the ring back. Bad, bad form – especially if the reason for ending the engagement has anything to do with another woman. “But what’s she going to do with it?!” you ask? I don’t know. Sell it and keep the money? Toss it over a bridge? Poke holes in the Voodoo doll of you? Whatever she wants. You took the best years of her life, she can take your 5-20K (Dramatic, yes, but I’m guessing I’d have an even more dramatic line if this had happened to me).
I think it’s important to note that many women in this situation might give the ring back in a spirit of not wanting to have anything to do with this man for the rest of their lives. That miiight be what I’d do. It would depend on how angry I was, aaaand how much the ring was worth.
Scenario #3. Scenarios 1 or 2 occur but the ring in question is an heirloom of the man’s family.
This pains me to say in the case of Scenario #2, but you’ve gotta give that ring back. The ring and that man are only connected in the sense that he got it for free from someone in his family. It’s not his, and unfortunately it’s not yours. Out of deference to people both older and god-willingly wiser than him, you should give it back. Unless of course you’re involved in a very bizarre scenario in which the reason said man is calling it off is because his mother is making him. In that case, you keep that ring, melt it down, and make something amazing with it. Don’t be shocked if legal action is taken against you though, according to one, L.A.-based entertainment lawyer.
Scenario #4. Woman says yes to proposal, then breaks off engagement.
There is no world in which it is ok to keep the ring if this is your situation. Even if the man, in a hopeless attempt to make you re-love him, says it’s okay. It’s not okay.
Scenario #5. Woman says yes to proposal, then breaks off engagement upon finding that man wronged her in any TBD number of ways (lying, cheating being popular examples)See Scenario #2.
In my mind those are all the general scenarios. I’ve left out instances where the couple paid for the ring together (too complicated), someone lies about the reason for breaking off the engagement (which is likely…), and/or someone refuses to give it back (in which case you’re probably going to need an assistant to get a lawyer on the phone).
Thoughts? Arguments? Legal precedent? Or (gulp) experiences?…