Who should keep the engagement ring if you end your engagement?

08 April 2024

An engagement is often symbolised by an engagement ring worn on the ring finger of the left hand of, traditionally, the woman. Engagement rings are usually valuable, containing gold and precious stones, and may even be family heirlooms. Therefore, in the event of a broken engagement, the rights to the engagement ring may come into question.

Who does the engagement ring belong to if the engagement ends?

Legally speaking, an engagement ring is deemed an “absolute gift” (s.3 Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970), and as such, should remain in the possession of the person to whom it was gifted.

Does it matter who broke off the engagement?

The above provision stands regardless of who breaks off the engagement, therefore which party chooses to end the engagement will not affect the ownership of the ring.

What if it is a family heirloom?

If the matter proceeded to Court, then it may be that a Court is more likely to assume an implied intention that the ring should be returned if the engagement ended. However, Courts generally take a more objective view, with legislation and intrinsic value overriding subjective factors such as sentimental values. That being said, it would need to be proved that the ring was in fact an heirloom given with the clear intention that it should be returned in the event of a break up.

Can you give the engagement ring under the condition that it will be returned if the engagement ends?

If the ring is gifted on the implied or express condition that it should be returned should the relationship end, then the ring should be returned. However, it may be tricky proving this unless you have it in writing. As explained above, Court would likely take a more objective view and deem the ring an absolute gift unless expressly stated otherwise.

For more information or assistance on obtaining your own financial consent order, please get in touch with our Family Team on 01273 447 065.

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