It didn’t work out…but who gets to keep the ring?

19th February 2019
BrendanBrendan Little

For many it’s a romantic time of year, what with Valentine’s Day and all that, and although they tell me the fairy tale endings are out there, unfortunately not all wishes come true.

As the Prefab Sprout song goes: “When love breaks down the things you do…” So if your engagement is broken off, who gets to keep the ring? And if you’re cohabitating, who stays and who moves out?

At DAS Ireland we’re fortunate to be pretty well off for legal advice and support, so I thought perhaps I could help clarify the legal position surrounding these unhappy and potentially expensive scenarios, and also answer the question: “Could legal advice help?”

If my fiancé(e) breaks off our engagement, can I legally ask for the ring to be returned?

In broad terms, an engagement ring is given as an ‘absolute gift’ and, as such, belongs to the person to whom it was given. The law doesn’t take any account of which partner calls off the engagement; regardless of who broke off the relationship the ring does not have to be given back.

There is, however, one important exception to this: if the ring is given on the condition, stated or implied, that the ring should be returned if the marriage does not go ahead. In this case, the ring would have to be returned. But of course unless you’ve got that in writing, which seems a little unlikely, then it may not be as easy as all that.

Does it make a difference if the ring is a family heirloom?

If the ring is a treasured family heirloom, a court would be more likely to assume that there was an implied intention that the ring would be returned if the couple split up. Although, once again, proving that it should be counted as such could be tricky.

What about cohabitation rights where the relationship breaks down?

If the relationship breaks down and your name is not on the title deeds to the property, you may still be able to show that you have some ownership rights in relation to the house.

There is a redress scheme set up under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 that provides financial protection where a cohabitating relationship ends through separation or death.

In the case of rented accommodation, check and see who the rental agreement is under (joint or single tenancy agreement) as this will obviously have an impact on the protection which may be available to you.

So what about your legal expenses insurance contract? Could it help here?

At the core of all our policies are our Legal Advice, and Counselling helplines. These are designed to provide our policyholders with legal assistance on the personal issues they may encounter. Both will provide expert, non-judgemental assistance to those who seek our help.

For further information on your rights and obligations, contact your DAS Account Manager who will advise on the products and services we have available, and which will best suit your needs.

Brendan Little is Head of Sales and Marketing at DAS Ireland.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

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