If your engagement doesn't have a happy ending, who gets the ring?

We set out a few facts to clarify the legal position surrounding ownership of what is often a very expensive statement of love.

13th February 2018

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, so is the excitement of a possible proposal of marriage. Everyone wishes for a fairy tale ending, but unfortunately not all wishes come true. If your fiancée unexpectedly breaks off the engagement, who gets to keep the engagement ring?

Hannah Parsons at DAS Law provides useful insight and clarifies the legal position surrounding ownership of what is often an expensive statement of love…

If my fiancé(e) breaks off our engagement, can I ask for the ring to be returned?

In broad terms, an engagement ring is given as an ‘absolute gift’ and, as such, belongs to the person to whom it was given. The law takes no account of which partner calls off the engagement. Regardless of who broke off the relationship the ring does not have to be given back.

There is, however, one important exception to this: if the ring is given on the condition, stated or implied, that the ring should be returned if the marriage does not go ahead. In this case, the ring would have to be returned.

Does it make a difference if the ring is a family heirloom?

If the ring is a treasured family heirloom, a court would be more likely to assume that there was an implied intention that the ring would be returned if the couple split up.

Would a pre-nuptial agreement help clarify the ownership of a ring?

Ownership of the ring could be specified in a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up between the couple, however pre-nups, as they are often called, are not 100% legally binding in the UK.

The ownership of engagement rings seems simple on the face of it but there are one or two catches and it is very important that couples understand the legal position on ownership to avoid making a break-up more difficult

If one of the couple wanted to be certain the ring would be returned should the marriage be called off, they would need to draft a written agreement specifically to this effect for his intended to sign.

Hannah Parsons

Legal Advice Manager, Solicitor

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