Who Keeps the Engagement Ring If You Split up Before Marriage?

Rose, Wedding Ring

Not all relationships are meant to last. If a relationship is going to end, it is better for it to end before marriage than after. In cases where a couple is engaged and the wedding is called off, a practical concern can arise, what happens to the ring?

There are two common outcomes when an engagement is called off and there is a dispute about the engagement ring. It comes down to whether the engagement ring is considered a conditional or an unconditional gift. If it is an unconditional gift than it will not likely be returned. That would be like asking for all the Christmas presents and birthday gifts back after a relationship ends.

In some cases, an engagement ring is considered to be a gift that is given on the condition that the parties get married, like a contract. In this case, the person who was given the ring is obliged to return it if the marriage is called off. If the marriage was broken off by the person who gave the ring, they are not entitled to get the ring back. If it is a mutual break up or the person who received the ring caused the break up.

A recent case in NS saw a woman get to keep a $19,000 ring even though she had called off the marriage. In this case, the court found that the ring was an unconditional gift because of text messages the man sent telling her she could keep the ring, even after they split up.

Another case in BC saw a couple who got engaged after only 3 weeks of meeting each other fighting over a ring worth close to $17,000. Again, the dispute boils down to whether or not the ring was a true or conditional gift.

One thing to consider is that it is next to impossible to sell an engagement ring for the same amount as you paid for it. In many cases you are luck to get half, and at the time of writing there were 250 listing under engagement rings for sale on kijiji in Nova Scotia alone.

There are no guarantees in life, and there is no guarantee about who will get to keep an engagement ring when a marriage is called off. There are some great deals on rings for sale on kijiji, but if you are superstitious you may not want an ‘unlucky ring” that is tainted by a break up.

If you have any questions about who keeps the engagement ring you can call us at (902) 826-3070 or email us at info@highlanderlaw.ca to set up a meeting with one of our lawyers at our Tantallon law firm. You can also schedule a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain us.  

By: Dianna M. Rievaj, MBA, LLB - Founding Lawyer

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