NPR logo Contract Law Is A Fiance's Best Friend

Contract Law Is A Fiance's Best Friend

Who gets this beauty when the romance is over? iStockphoto.com hide caption

toggle caption
iStockphoto.com

Who gets this beauty when the romance is over?

iStockphoto.com

TOTN is wedding central right now (within a year, we'll have had three weddings!!) so I hesitate to bring this up, but, as Casey Greenfield points out in Slate, the approach of wedding season also brings the possibility of some runaway brides. In that case, who gets the ring? It turns out that when it comes to engagement rings, and the return of them, there's more than just the four c's involved — cut, clarity, color, carat — there's another c... for contract.

Contract law takes the view that the exchange of a ring for the promise to wed constitutes a binding contract. It's not the most romantic narrative, but in a court fight over a diamond, romance already lies in the dust. Essential to the formation of a contract between two people are an offer from one ("Will you marry me?"), an acceptance from the other ("Oh, my God, I have to call my mother. I mean, yes!"), and consideration from both (the ring from him, the promise from her). This last element, also known as a "bargained-for exchange," requires that each person give up something of value to support the contract. Without the exchange of consideration, there is no contract.

However, as Greenfield sensibly points out — in the end, whether or not you give up the ring is about being reasonable, and shouldn't really ever end up in court. However, should you need a guide, this Slate piece is an excellent place to start.