Krystle Gill is a family lawyer in Victoria BC. If you are looking to book a free consultation with our Victoria law firm, please call (250) 388-9477.
Who get’s the ring?
If you are given an expensive diamond engagement ring, and you call off the engagement, do you get to keep the ring?
The courts seem to be divided over the proper etiquette after an engagement is called off. Is the ring a conditional gift (i.e. a symbol of a promise to marry) or is it a true gift? If it is a true gift, then there should be no expectation of its return, though if it is a gift conditional on getting married, then it may depend on who breaks off the engagement to determine who should keep the ring. In the legal world, it is usually the person who breaks the contract that has to forfeit the consideration.
In the 1926 case of Cohen v. Sellar, Justice McCardie stated “If the engagement to marry be dissolved by mutual consent, then in the absence of agreement to the contrary, the engagement ring and like gifts must, I think, be returned by each party to the other.” However, there is a conflicting 1953 case, Vezina v. Blais, where Justice Wilson states that: “an engagement ring is an outright gift by the donor to the recipient. It becomes the absolute property of the recipient upon acceptance of it.” In other cases, wedding and engagement rings have been determined to be family assets, where the starting point for division is 50/50 where either party can make an argument for reapportionment, though this usually occurs after the wedding has taken place.
So who get’s the ring?
Under the Family Law Act, if the parties are not spouses (common law spouses have to live together for at least two years to qualify as spouses under the Act), it is likely that a Court would view an engagement ring as a conditional gift… the very name of the ring is interpreted to mean the condition of being engaged to marry. If the person who received the engagement ring called off the wedding, under contract principles, the engagement ring should be returned. However, it is very important to remember that every case will be determined on its individual facts – and maybe it was an outright gift after all.