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Legal Implications of an Engagement

It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. Love it or hate it, 36% of couples think it’s the most romantic day of the year to propose. So, if you plan to ask for her hand in marriage, you should each know the legal implications:

  • The Ring

What happens to the ring if the wedding falls through? This issue was clarified in the 1999 decision of Lindh v. Surman. In Pennsylvania, an engagement ring is considered a conditional gift that must be returned to the giver in the event the condition (the marriage) does not occur. The ring is returned regardless of who broke off the engagement.

  • Prenuptial Agreement

The vows may say “till death do us part,” but over 50% of marriages end in divorce. As such, couples should certainly consider a prenuptial agreement. Also known as a premarital or antenuptial agreement, this document legally defines how a couple will split their assets should the marriage end. Because there is already a plan in place, a prenuptial agreement can make the process less complicated should divorce occur. While the document is usually drafted and signed before marriage, it is possible to create an arrangement post-marriage.

  • Living Together Contract

A recent study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research states that 66% of current married couples lived together prior to their wedding day. When non-married couples decide to cohabitate, legal title to property can be more subjective than that of a married couple. A living together contract is an excellent way to have a clear understanding of who gets what should the couple split before they walk down the aisle. This contract normally includes arrangements for property and expenses but can also be as specific as who gets to keep the dog should things go awry.

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