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Broken Engagements: Is love really in the air?

22 Mar 2019

Only one month on from Valentine’s Day and Cupid has decided to take the week off.

Statistics show that there is a sudden surge in the number of couples breaking up in the months that follow Valentine’s Day – so what happens when one party gets cold feet…and importantly, who keeps the engagement ring?

Broken relationships can be very emotional – be it heartbreak or elation – and the question of who is to keep the ring can cause arguments between separating couples which could be avoided.

Whilst ownership of the engagement ring may initially seem like a straightforward matter, it can test the moral compasses of both parties, and there are a few points which couples could consider to help avoid an even messier break up.

In general terms, an engagement ring will be treated as an “absolute gift” under The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 (“the Act”). As such, the ring can be kept by the recipient and they will be under no obligation to return it when the relationship comes to an end.

There are, however, a couple of exceptions to this:

  • There is an express written agreement between the parties to return the ring if the marriage did not take place; and/or
  • The ring was considered to be a family heirloom and there was an implied intention that the ring would be returned.
Tom Bridge

Written Agreement

If the very romantic decision has been taken to create a written agreement between the parties that the ring should be returned prior to one party proposing, this should be adhered to. However, is it unlikely that there are many couples out there who propose with a written contract and a diamond engagement ring.

Family Heirloom

If the ring is considered to be a family heirloom or had particular sentimental value to the donor, then the courts are more likely to accept that there was an implied intention under the Act to return the ring if one party gets cold feet, especially if there is evidence to show that the ring was treated as a family heirloom and/or had sentimental value. However, an application to court is likely to be expensive and may well outweigh the cost of the ring itself

For more information on any of the above, or how we can help you, please contact Tom Bridge, or call 0191 232 8345.