Springtime Musings: Getting Married This Year? Go in With Your Eyes Wide Open by Nicholas O’Kelly, Attorney

Despite their fervent intentions at the time of the marriage proposal, many engaged couples say “I don’t” before signing the marriage certificate. As the first children-of-divorce generation to reach marrying age, today’s twenty-and thirty somethings would much prefer a broken betrothal to a broken home. Breaking an engagement is difficult, but rather than face it with shame, many almost-unhappily-marrieds see it as a wise, even courageous act. Such “disengaged” individuals have become increasingly visible and vocal. Nobody tracks how many engagements are broken each year, and people in the always-upbeat wedding industry are reluctant to even discuss the issue. However, in an online national poll of 565 single adults conducted in August 2003 by Match.com/Zoomerang for Time, 20% said they had broken off an engagement in the past three years, and 39% said they knew someone else who had done so,” writes Pamela Paul, from Time Magazine.1

After the pain and disappointment on one side, and the corresponding sigh of relief on the other, there remains the practical question: Who gets to keep the engagement ring now that there’s no wedding? It depends on the facts, according to Nicholas O’Kelly, attorney with Kilgore & Kilgore and Kilgore & Kilgore PLLC in Dallas, Texas. Texas applies the “conditional gift rule.” In other words, the engagement ring is viewed as a conditional gift given in contemplation of marriage and on condition that the marriage takes place. The future permanent home of the ring is dictated by the answer to the question: Who broke off the engagement and why? If a woman accepts the ring, but later breaks off the engagement for no justifiable reason, such as infidelity or her fiancé’s pre-existing marital status, Texas law requires her to return the ring.

In a recent case, the Court of Appeals in Austin held that this rule applies equally to the man. In that case, the fiancé called off the wedding because of his fiancée’s “sexual hang-ups” and “issues with men.” There was no evidence of infidelity or any other justifiable reason. The court held that the man was at fault and allowed the woman to keep the engagement ring.

This is not the rule in all jurisdictions, many of which have perhaps wisely concluded that it is impossible to determine whether any particular breakup was justified, regardless of the circumstances. However, the law in Texas is clear.

With springtime upon us yet again, our advice to all courting couples, when you say “Yes,” make sure you mean it and don’t give your fiancé(e) a reason to break it off.

Says Christine Steinorth, MA, MFT, a Psychotherapist, and the Author of “Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships,” you would be surprised how many women going through divorces tell me they knew they were making a mistake when they walked down the aisle…” Here are her five warning signs you may want to consider before saying “I do.”

1. You don’t get along with his family. Many couples go through with weddings hoping all the family stuff will “just work out.” Don’t fall into this trap because it seldom does.

2. You’ve dated for less than a year. Most people are on their best behavior for the first twelve months of a relationship. After that, people tend to let their guard down a little bit and you get to see what a person is really like.

3. You haven’t come to an agreement about kids, careers, finances and other fundamental issues. So many couples get caught up in wedding planning, that they forget to talk about the basic matters of sharing a life together.

4. You lack conflict resolution skills. A lot of couples write off arguments before a wedding as “wedding day jitters,” but the truth of the matter is that if you have horrendous arguments and fights with your partner and nothing ever seems to get resolved, you may want to consider calling off your wedding until the two of you work on your conflict resolution skills. Long-term relationships require good communication skills. The good news is that this can be learned if both people are committed to doing so.

5. Your gut feeling is telling you to call it off. We have gut feelings for a reason, and where most of us get into trouble is when we don’t listen to them. If your gut feeling is telling you to call off your wedding, it’s probably a good idea to listen to that feeling and postpone your wedding until the feeling goes away. If you are meant to be together, that current gut feeling that is telling you “don’t do it,” will eventually pass.2

If you are contemplating a marriage, you would be wise to consult a therapist or marriage counselor before proceeding. Bringing the thorny issues of a relationship out into the light of day and working through them together will strengthen the bond that binds you. If you are thinking of calling it off, Kilgore & Kilgore has experienced attorneys ready to advise the best course of action for your situation. Email dem@kilgorelaw.com to set up a free review of the facts of your case with a Kilgore & Kilgore lawyer.

1 Calling it Off, by Pamela Paul, October 1, 2003, Time Magazine, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,490683,00.html

2 Calling Off a Wedding – 5 Signs You Should Do It, by Christine Steinorth, MA, MFT, March 16, 2015, Huff Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/calling-off-a-wedding_n_1881407.html

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