Broken Promises: What to Do When All That Is Left Is The Ring

When a member of an Illinois couple is shopping for a shiny new engagement ring, he or she is filled with promise and hope for the future. It therefore seems counterintuitive to immediately consider the personal property ramifications of a rejected marriage proposal or, much more significantly, an accepted proposal ending in a broken engagement.

It is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of all engagements are called off each year. This staggering statistic should cause all individuals contemplating engagement to seriously consider what will happen to their expensive new purchase in the event the couple does not follow through with the wedding.

The idea of property division is a foreign concept to most couples who have been married for many years and are contemplating or going through divorce. The situation is even more unique when a couple has yet to be married and is in a dispute over the one valuable piece of property acquired in the relationship to that point. Nevertheless, those faced with a broken engagement should seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer to explore all options when the engagement does not end in marriage.

In general, Illinois follows a statute known as the Breach of Promises Act, 740 ILCS section 15/1-10, with respect to disputes over engagement ring ownership when an engaged couple does not marry. The Breach of Promises Act was enacted to protect breaches of the promise to marry, and requires the person who intends to file suit under that law to notify the person against whom the action is to be brought no later than three months from the date of the alleged breach of promise to marry. The Breach of Promises Act also carries a statute of limitations of one year.

Illinois Courts interpreting the Breach of Promises Act have held that an individual who receives a gift in contemplation of a marriage that is not completed has no right to retain the property. See Carroll v. Curry, 912, N.E. 2d 272 (2d Dist. 2009); see also Harris v. Davis, 139 Ill.App.3d 1047 (5th Dist. 1986). Therefore, individuals who have purchased a ring in contemplation of a marriage that does not occur may have recourse to recover the ring itself or the purchase price.

Contact an Illinois Family Law Attorney

Should you be involved in a dispute over a ring representing a broken engagement in DuPage, Kane, Cook, or other local Northern Illinois counties, the family law attorneys at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C., located in Wheaton, Illinois, have years of experience handling such cases and are available to advise you. Additionally, should you be interested in drafting a prenuptial agreement to address the potential for a broken engagement upfront, contact our Illinois family law attorneys today and we will be glad to assist you.