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Do you legally have to give back an engagement ring? UK Law

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Engagement rings and the law.

Recently I was asked what happens if an engagement breaks down and one party requests the return of the engagement ring. Now you might assume that it would be the property of the person who received the “gift”. This is not so straightforward though and consideration must be given as to whether this ring was a family heirloom or other sentimental piece of jewellery from the giver’s family.

Under the The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 (yes 1970!) it quite clearly states:

“The gift of an engagement ring shall be presumed to be an absolute gift; this presumption may be rebutted by proving that the ring was given on the condition, express or implied, that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place for any reason.”

I have to say I cannot see many people proposing with a beautiful engagement ring and putting in the proviso that “if this engagement does not work out and we don’t get married, I will need the ring returned to me”. Not exactly the best footing to start a long-term relationship on.

It is extremely rare but an application can be made to the court for the return of the ring if no agreement can be reached. I would hope that this would not be the case given the likely value of the ring and the costs involved in going to court.

If you do go to court, the court would look at all the circumstances and decide whether it was expressly stated as above that the ring be returned or whether it was implied that the ring should be returned if the engagement broke down. Implied would normally cover the fact that the ring was a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation.

As always, it’s best to speak to a family lawyer for advice on the situation and so that you know what your options are. Don’t just assume the ring is yours.

Liz Davies
Divorce & family lawyer Ludlow

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