As more details continue to come out about Mariah Carey and James Packer‘s split, the whole ordeal only seems to become more uncertain. While the break up has turned into a serious case of he-said, she-said, there’s one thing that the pop star has made crystal clear — she’s keeping the ring. But as the diva continues to go out in Hollywood with that 35-carat rock still firmly attached to her finger, one big question remains: Legally, does she have to give it back?
According to Alexandra Leichter, a Certified Family Law Specialist at Leichter Leichter-Maroko LLP in Beverly Hills, California, “It depends who broke up the engagement. If it was [Mariah], she has to give it back. If it was [Packer], she doesn’t have to give it back. It’s very simple in the state of California.” She also explained that engagement rings are typically considered a “conditional gift,” in other words, a gift given under the expectation that certain events will occur or requirements will be met, such as a wedding or a death.
She added, however, “If it’s an unconditional gift it doesn’t make any difference who broke up the engagement. Of course, if she has gotten the engagement ring under false pretenses or under fraud, he could still have a claim for fraud even in that case. But generally speaking, that’s not the way engagement rings work.”
But the one place Leichter warns where things could get tricky is that, although the pair lived together in L.A. and Mariah is still living in the house there, they got engaged in N.Y.C., and under New York state law the ring must be returned no matter what. She explains, “Since they were living here together in California, technically California law determines the action for the breakup…But the question becomes whether California law will say, She got the engagement ring in New York, so New York law governs and even though we’re in California, she may have to give it back because that’s where she got it.”
However, based off a similar divorce case that took place in Alaska, Leichter believes that California law will likely still be applied in this case, especially “if the ring was given in New York only because they happened to have been there for some celebration, or some other reason.” As for how Packer’s Australian citizenship might influence these proceedings, “That has nothing to do with the price of tea in China,” she jokes.
And in the case that it was the Glitter star who called things off, is there anything Mariah could do to keep the ring under California state law? “Only if she has a claim for fraud against him or for other promises that he had made to her,” Leichter explains, which could include him being jailed, cheating on her while affianced, “or if he had said to her, No matter what, this is a gift that’s really not an engagement gift; it doesn’t make any difference whether we get married or not, it’s not a gift in contemplation of marriage. If he said that, then she doesn’t have to give it back.”
Good advice for any girl planning to get engaged over the holidays: Make sure all of your bases are covered and all of your gifts are unconditional.
Do you think Mariah should fight for her engagement ring or give it back? Sound off below!