Engagement Ends. Who Gets the Ring? Family Law

You have been in a healthy relationship for the past 2 years.  It is finally the time to ask the big question.  You present your significant other with a beautiful engagement ring which they, in turn, accept.  The wedding is scheduled for next year.  However, before the wedding ceremony takes place the relationship sours.   You and your significant other blame each other for the relationship ending.  You have asked your ex-partner for the return of the engagement ring.  Your ex-partner refuses its return claiming it to be a gift.

Who has a better claim to the engagement ring now that the relationship has ended?

In a recent British Columbia case [S. (P.) v. R. (H.), 2016 BCSC 2071], the court held that in accordance with the law in British Columbia if a gift is determined to be made in contemplation of marriage and the marriage does not take place, then the gift must be returned.

An exception to that rule comes in the form of an absolute gift.  If it can be established through the evidence of the case that the engagement ring was intended to be an absolute gift, than the ring will not be returned to the one who bought it.

Now, what if the relationship ends due to the conduct of only one of the parties?   This case tells us that fault does not factor in the decision one way or the other in British Columbia.  At paragraph 71 of that Court decision, the court stated “Fault for the termination of the engagement does not enter into the analysis.”  The test is whether the ring was an absolute gift or a gift in contemplation of marriage.

If you need legal advice on this subject or any other law related inquiry please contact us.