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Potential legal issues when breaking off an engagement

One of the items that many couples include in their prenuptial agreements is who will get any jewelry given to one another during the marriage. If an engagement ring had significant monetary or sentimental value, the groom-to-be may also want to include a stipulation that he gets that back if the couple divorces.

If you hadn't yet gotten around to a prenup when you break up, determining who walks away with the engagement ring can potentially become a legal battle. If the matter goes before a judge, it all depends on how the judge views the ring. He or she may determine that it was a conditional gift. Since the condition (that the couple would marry) didn't come about, the recipient of the ring may be ordered to return it. However, if it's determined to be a gift, the partner who received it will get to keep it.

If an engaged couple was already living together when they broke up, there may be some difficulty sorting out of property, debts and expenses. That's why many family law attorneys recommend that couples who live together draw up a cohabitation agreement to stipulate how these things are divided should they go their separate ways.

Another bone of contention if engaged couples break things off before they make it down the aisle involves wedding expenses. If you've already made a deposit on the room, booked the orchestra, started working with the caterer, florist and other vendors, you may have spent a good deal of money already. If all of that was done in both of your names, you'll likely need to split the cost.

Couples can minimize their costs should they break up, or if the wedding needs to be cancelled for any reason, by paying attention to the cancellation policies in all of their wedding vendor contracts and working to negotiate policies that protect them if plans change.

If you're dealing with any of these issues, an experienced North Carolina attorney can provide guidance and work to help you come out of the broken engagement without serious damage to your finances.

Source: Findlaw, "Top 3 Legal Tips When Calling Off a Wedding or Engagement," Christopher Coble, Esq., accessed Jan. 27, 2017

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