I tried, Law Law Land readers, I really, really tried. I struggled, but alas, I was not strong enough to stop myself from writing about the Kardashian divorce.
The 72-day marriage (if it can even be called that) of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (herein referred to as “KK,” or maybe “666” would be more appropriate), is chock full of legal issues. What about the pre-nuptial agreement? (“Ironclad,” I’m sure, but speculation is already swirling about whether Kim’s “shady behavior” has rendered it “worthless.”) What to do with the gifts? (Apparently Kim is donating$200,000 to charity in lieu of returning the gifts. I’m sure the people who bought her the $375 candy jar, or $6,500 vase, or $1,250 serving spoon, or $1,600 teapot, or $840 ashtray are thrilled about that decision and the tax write off she gets. And no, I did not make up those items or prices). Why isn’t gay marriage legal and this is? (Beats me, but it really makes you think about that whole “sanctity of marriage” argument.)
But the burning issue I want to write on? What happens to THE RING? (I think the 20.5-carat sparkler deserves all-caps treatment.)
In her divorce filling, Kim has requested that unspecified jewelry obtained during the couple’s relationship remain her sole property. Whether this includes THE RING has not been made public, but it probably doesn’t: TMZ reports that KK’s pre-nuptial agreement had a special clause allowing her to buy the ring back from Kris at the original purchase price in the event of a divorce (and she says she didn’t see this coming?). Since Kris only got paid a measly $2.9 million from the Net Jersey Nets in 2009, let’s hope he got a hefty discount on THE RING, which was widely reported to have cost $2 million. (OR, maybe he didn’t have to buy it all: according to some conspiracy theorists, Kim owned the ring long before she even met Kris.)
There are a few legal issues in the case of engagement rings and love gone wrong. Engagement etiquette mandates that if she breaks the engagement, he gets the ring, and if he breaks the engagement, she keeps it. Of course, Emily Post is not exactly citable in a court filing, and the legal world has a decidedly different opinion.
Some states, including California, view an engagement ring as a conditional gift and do not look at fault. A conditional gift is a gift given based on the expectation that some future event or action will take place (the marriage). Accordingly, if the marriage does not occur, then by law, it must be returned to the party that gave it. (This scenario and result should be very familiar to anyone who has watched enough episodes of Judge Judy or The People’s Court.) However, if the ring was given on the receiver’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, or some other holiday, courts may view it as a run-of-the-mill gift, not a conditional gift in which case the receiver is not required to return it by law. (Hear that, Kim? Next time get your fiancé to propose on your birthday so that the ring is yours, no questions asked. Or get engaged in Montana, where they classify engagement rings as an unconditional gift and award the ring to the receiver. Or don’t get married for only 72 days.)
In other states, fault determines who gets the ring. If the receiver of the ring is at fault, she must return the ring. If the receiver is not a fault, she gets to keep it. If the breakup is by mutual agreement, they look at the ring as a conditional gift and the giver gets it.
If the marriage does occur, the rules change. In California (and most states), the law is on the bride’s side: the ring belongs to the recipient spouse and is NOT part of marital or community property. Once the ring is given and the marriage has occurred, the receiver has fulfilled the condition on the gift and it is her separate property. Given California’s bride-friendly laws, it is surprising that Kim included a clause in her prenup that she had to buy back the ring in the event of a divorce. It also fuels the fire of speculation that the entire marriage was fake. My guess: Kris had a pretty good lawyer who anticipated this thing wasn’t going to last. (I refuse to believe that reality television is fake, especially anything Kardashian related.)
For now, we all have to deal with the media frenzy surrounding this marriage/divorce and can watch the unraveling of true love on the next season of Kourtney and Kim Take New York on the always classy E! Network. As for Kim? I’m sure she’s planning her next marriage and plotting a way to get her future fiancé to propose on her birthday with this diamond mounted on an engagement ring.