Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez broke off their engagement, leaving behind a sparkly casualty: the ring, with an estimated cost of $1.8 million, which is still in J-Lo's possession. Should she return it?
On Thursday, the couple of four years issued a joint statement to Today confirming their split, rumors of which they denied last month. "We have realized we are better as friends and look forward to remaining so," read the statement. "We will continue to work together and support each other on our shared businesses and projects. We wish the best for each other and one another’s children. Out of respect for them, the only other comment we have to say is thank you to everyone who has sent kind words and support."
According to TMZ, Lopez still has the emerald-cut ring, one item among the "massive amounts of jewelry" exchanged by the couple, though the issue of ownership may be moot, as TMZ claims the pair are unlikely to bicker over the band (and Lopez did return the $2.5 million, 6.1-carat Harry Winston pink diamond from Ben Affleck following their 2006 breakup). Still, the "right" thing to do is thorny.
"Most states consider an engagement ring a conditional gift — it's given on the condition of marriage," Guy A. Rub, a professor of law at The Ohio State University tells Yahoo Life. "If marriage doesn't materialize, the expectation is to return it," especially if it's a family heirloom.
And the cause of the breakup is rarely relevant (in J-Rod's case, there were rumors of the baseball pro having an affair with Southern Charm's Madison LeCroy, though the reality star claimed the two had "never met"), as courts rarely wade into "he said-she said" matters.
"We don't ask who is at fault," says Guy, "because relationships are too nuanced and complicated." Federal law also doesn't address ownership of engagement rings, he adds, with state courts and state supreme courts overseeing such disputes, although the top-tiered system only intervenes in rare and unprecedented cases.
"There is a general exception," he says. "If the proposal took place over Christmas, for example, the court would need to determine whether the ring is a holiday gift or an engagement gift."
That said, breakups are messy and emotional. "A hurt party may establish a sense of justice in keeping their ring or find solace in selling it and doing something altruistic with the money," clinical psychologist Donna Rockwell tells Yahoo Life. If the ring owner ended the relationship, she adds, returning it is the "moral and spiritual" thing to do.
If you're holding onto an engagement ring, think about this: "Am I keeping this out of spite or as a reminder of what could have been?" says Rockwell. "Keeping it could prevent you from moving on but the act of returning it may bring peace."
Read more from Yahoo Life:
Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.