Who gets the engagement ring?

Together we are Forbes


22 May, 2023

Adrienne Baker

A common question from parties who are separating is: who owns the engagement ring or other gifts made throughout the marriage.

If an engaged couple separate before their marriage is made legal, the law dealing with the engagement ring is contained within the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 which says it shall be presumed that the engagement ring is an absolute gift. This means the party with the ring in their possession has no obligation to return it if the wedding doesn't take place. The law takes no account of who broke off the engagement or who may be at fault.

However, this presumption can be rebutted if there was a condition (either expressed or implied) that the ring would be returned if the engagement was broken off. The recipient would then be required to return the ring.

In reality, no romantic proposal is going to follow with "If we ever split up, the ring will need to be returned to me". Such a situation is more likely to arise if the engagement ring was a family heirloom.

If parties were married and then subsequently separate, the rules are very similar. A party can not seek the return of a gift made to their spouse unless it was subject to a condition. The position with married couples differs slightly as they will be under an obligation within financial proceedings on divorce to disclose all personal belongings exceeding £500 in value. This includes any jewellery, cars, paintings, furniture or electrical items.

These items can be seen as a financial resource of the parties. The greater the value of the item as compared to the total overall value of other assets, the more likely it is to be taken into account. Generally, however, if the parties have valuable belongings, their other assets are usually significant enough for the Court to ignore such items. Parties will not usually be expected to give up or sell sentimental items in order to meet their needs and normally would be left to agree who should keep what.

It is therefore the case that personal belongings generally stay where they are on divorce, unless there are special circumstances. If gifts have been made it is extremely difficult to undue them. If a party wishes to protect certain valuable or heirloom items then consideration should be given to a pre nuptial or post nuptial agreement. This document could expressly set out the intention and any condition of a party gifting any valuable item and would avoid any future disputes in the future. An alternative document for engaged couples could be a cohabitation agreement.

If there is any doubt on your position, it is always advised to seek specialist legal advice.

For more information contact Adrienne Baker in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01254 580 000. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Family/Divorce department here

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