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Top 3 Legal Tips When Calling Off a Wedding or Engagement

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

The time period between Christmas and Valentine's Day is known as "Engagement Season," with couples dreaming of a wedding down the road. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often go awry and may not deliver on that promised joy.

On top of broken hearts, couples who break off their engagement may also have to worry about broken contracts -- and that's not all. Here are three legal concerns that may arise when calling off a wedding, and how they can potentially be addressed:

1. Reconcile the Ring.

The one thing that got the whole wedding ball rolling might be the biggest bone of contention in a breakup: Who gets to keep the engagement ring? Although 78 percent of Americans think the giver should get the ring back, according to a new survey, the law doesn't always adhere to popular opinion.

In fact, the legal question of who gets to keep an engagement ring may depend on the court in your jurisdiction, if the fight gets that far. If the ring is considered a gift or compensation, it will likely stay with the receiver. But if a court views the ring as a conditional gift, or seeks to restore both parties to their previous economic positions, the giver may get the ring back.

2. Contact Your Vendors, Contractors.

If you were sufficiently into the wedding planning process, you'll have had contracts with multiple ceremony-related vendors whose services are no longer required. Hopefully you were also careful in crafting the cancellation policies in those contracts. If not, you may have some negotiations ahead with florists, caterers, and the like.

3. Sort Out Your Stuff.

Many engaged couples live together before their nuptials, and some may even have signed cohabitation agreements. These agreements can cover everything from who's responsible for the electric bill to who gets the chandelier in case of a permanent separation.

If you were forward-thinking (or pessimistic) enough to sign a cohabitation agreement before cancelling your engagement, you should be all set. If not, then you, your ex, and that chandelier might be in for quite a fight.

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