Huffpost Chicago
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Steve Lake Headshot

When the Vows Break: Legal Realities of The Bachelorette

Posted: Updated:

After more than 30 years of bachelorhood, I recently got married to my beautiful wife, Jana.
Now, people keep asking me, "How's married life?" -- an interesting question since I'm known as one of the premiere divorce attorneys in the country.

Well, for one thing, instead of coming home from work and flipping on SportsCenter, I now find myself on the couch next to my wife "enjoying" the latest episode of The Bachelorette.

After weeks of watching one ill-fated suitor after another leave the show broken-hearted I've started to wonder: Will any of these contestants end up needing to hire a guy like me?
Will Chris or Roberto- - whoever is lucky enough to get the final rose on Monday -- leave a job, pack up and move, only to realize a month later that things just aren't going to work out?
If the happy couple does end up breaking off their hasty, made-for-TV engagement, who gets the ABC-funded diamond ring?

And what if one of the unlucky 24 rejects takes his unceremonious departure from the show a bit too personally and attempts to avenge himself on the unwary bachelorette or even one of his fellow competitors?

Illinois provides answers to some of these questions with its aptly named Breach of Promise Act.

Under the Act, poor Chris (or Roberto) may recover actual damages resulting from a broken engagement, including the costs of relocating, putting down all of those pricey wedding vendor deposits, and foregone wages or lost business profits readily attributable to the break up.

It gives the jilted fiancé some protection from his wayward bride-to-be.

Whether or not that will encourage the lucky winner to beseech his Bachelorette for her hand remains to be seen, of course.

And what about that sure-to-be-extravagant engagement ring?
While I'm sure ABC will reclaim what's rightfully theirs if the match-made-in-heaven falls through, real couples often don't have such clear-cut contractual obligations to guide them.
Instead, Average Joe may wind up taking his Average Jane to court to reclaim his several-thousand dollar investment.

If Jane was the one to break-off the engagement (perhaps upset that Joe wouldn't dutifully give up his Monday Night Football in favor of Dancing with the Stars?), or if they mutually decide to separate (the Bears-Packers rivalry just runs too deep), he would be in luck: The law says she must return the ring.

But if Joe were the one to end things the question of who gets the ring becomes more uncertain. Different states have different laws.

Generally there are two outcomes. Some state statutes make it clear the man should not benefit from ending the engagement by regaining the ring. Others take a "no-fault" approach and the ring is returned to the purchaser regardless of who ended it.

Broken promises and engagement rings aside, there's always the possibility one of the many men rejected on reality TV could exhibit violence toward the bachelorette -- or even other contestants.

The recent 'Men Tell All' episode on The Bachelorette made it clear there is little love lost between several of the contestants. Fortunately, temporary restraining orders exist as a way to prevent likely altercations before they happen -- or to keep them from happening again.

It's a short-term order that can later be extended if a judge decides the guys can't be trusted within a fifty-foot radius of each other.

As for me, it looks like marriage may have added a bit of reality to my TV viewing habits. Now, I'm thinking about catching a few episodes of Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch on VH1.

After all, it's a reality show about love and football -- how bad can it really be?

Around the Web

The Divorce Support Page: Divorce, Child Custody, Alimony, Support ...

Who Will Get Custody and Visitation Rights? - Divorce & Family Law ...

divorce360.com | His or Hers: Who Gets Ring?

Returning an Engagement Ring - Divorce & Family Law Center