Researching a classic hypo on WLN: Who gets the bling?

December 29, 2011

Much to dismay of many single women here in Minnesota, Twins baseball player, and “Hometown Hero” Joe Mauer, recently announced his engagement to a former high school classmate. His happy news came just a little over a month after the demise of fellow Minnesota-born athlete Kris Humphries’ marriage to Kim Kardashian. News reports indicated that Kardashian declared an intention to keep her reported $2 million engagement ring. A pre-nuptial agreement also may play into the balance, with various news reports indicating that the agreement allows Kardashian to purchase the wedding ring in the event of a divorce.

So what is the law on this classic law-school scenario? On WestlawNext, try a plain language search using West Search in all state cases:

ownership of engagement ring

We get some promising looking results in the case law, but Related Documents includes an ALR article titled,  Rights in respect of engagement and courtship presents when marriage does not ensue, 44 A.L.R.5th 1 .
So it looks like we have a good start for the broken engagement situation. But what about a divorce? What happens to the ring when a marriage happens, but fails? For that, simply try,

Ownership of engagement ring after divorce

I click on the cases link on the left to see what we get, and quickly I see language about whether engagement rings are considered marital or separate property. I see references to statutes and again on the right side of the screen, under Related Documents, I see a Yale Law Journal article:

When the marriage ceremony ends, the law declares that a woman has done her part with respect to the ring and can keep it forever.

Rebecca Tushnet, Rules of Engagement, 107 Yale L.J. 2583, 2603 (1998)