This is it! The moment you have been dreaming of since you were a child. A ring has been purchased and exchanged. You and your betrothed are parading around town shining your love light as far as you possibly can. There are dozens of heavy bridal magazines arriving in your mailbox weekly and a lot of decisions are being made for the big day.
And then, as time goes on, something changes. You are less excited about your upcoming nuptials and begin to have more and more questions about whether or not this wedding is such a good idea. You get this uneasy feeling that this marriage is not meant to be. Then, one day, you receive a sign and become convinced that it is time to put a stop to your wedding before it is too late. You call it all off.
Your engagement has ended. So now what?
Engagement, like most steps in marriage, is a contract. It is a contract to be wed. So when there is a breach of that contract and the parties do not end up getting married – what happens next? What rights and obligations remain in a broken engagement?
A lot of those answers depend on what steps have already been taken towards the wedding. First of all, and ladies don’t hate me, but the ring should be returned. In the eyes of the law, the ring given during engagement is considered the “consideration” portion of a contract. Basically, the ring is a gift given in contemplation of the marriage. So if the marriage does not happen, then the ring is to be returned. If the ring was given for some other purpose, like a birthday or valentine’s day, then the bride-to-[no longer]-be may have an argument that the ring was given as a gift for some other purpose, but it is generally implied that a diamond ring followed by the announcement you are planning to be married means the ring was given for that purpose. So it has to go back.
The next question is what steps were taken towards planning the wedding. You may be on the hook for venue fees, catering fees, the big white dress, etc. Much of what happens with these fees will depend on the situation leading up to breaking off the engagement and the financial circumstances of the parties. The last thing you want to do after ending an engagement is have to file suit and end up in a legal battle regarding the wedding that never happened, but it is still a good idea to consult with an experienced family law attorney about the rights and obligations you have in this situation, if that is where you find yourself.
Finally, if there are any children between the two of you, you may need to look at the issues of legitimation and/or child support. A father has no legal rights to a child born out of wedlock until either a legitimation suit is brought or the parties eventually marry. So if these issues apply to you, it can be a critical time to consult with an attorney about how the engagement ending will affect your minor child’s legal status.
Still, in the long run, it is better to deal with the issues from a broken engagement than resulting from a marriage which was not meant to be. While it can be hard to pick up the pieces, return the presents and lose deposits, you can come through stronger on the other side. And if you need someone to strategize with, give us a call. That’s what we are here for.