Sue for Engagement Ring Back?

Q: My boyfriend and I got engaged a month ago. We purchased his wedding ring and he also wanted an engagement ring for himself, and we purchased my wedding band and ordered my dress. I say "we," but it was I who put out all the down payments and payments for the items, with him saying, "You know I will pay you back." Now, not even a month later, he calls and says he needs some space and that things are going too fast. I suggested moving the wedding to a later date. He said he did not want to be engaged and that he needed time and has doubts. I am unemployed and a full-time student with unemployment benefits that have run out!

I wrote him to say I returned my ring and nothing was owed, and that I expected him to return the "engagement ring" on his finger and pay for my dress. He seems to think he should only pay for the two bands I bought him, but only if I return them to him! I live in Georgia, do I have a civil or small claims case against him that I could win? How much would this cost and do I need a lawyer to do this? The total I feel he owes me is almost $400. I do have a lawyer friend who could write a letter for me to send to this jerk. Any advice? -- Doris, 43

Dr. Susan: I can't give you legal advice for any state. In my own state, no lawyer is needed for a small claims court case, and the fees are pretty minimal to file. Just a hassle, but sometimes worth it. You do need a good case however. You might not be able to prove to a judge's satisfaction that he has to pay you for your dress. The thing I've learned about such courts is that you need a very clear case (contracts help), and that just because you're morally "right," doesn't mean you'll get money. Even if you win, that doesn't mean he'll pay. Possibly having a lawyer send him a letter would be helpful. I understand that this amount of money is a lot for you right now, and besides that, you're furious with him for getting you into this mess. Sometimes one has to decide to leave a situation at "lesson learned." Talk to your lawyer friend about whether your case is strong enough to pursue.

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