Q&A - Am I legally entitled to keep the ring if I have broken off my engagement?

Q: My boyfriend proposed to me when we were on holiday in January and I accepted. After we got home I left my job 120 miles away to move in with him, but within a few weeks I realised I had made a terrible mistake as he became controlling and jealous. His behaviour got worse and worse until my life became unbearable. I literally had to plan my escape and in May I moved out and have been staying with a friend ever since. I have no job and no money and now he is demanding that I return my engagement ring. My friend says I should keep it as it was a gift and then I can sell it and use the money to get back on my feet. Am I entitled to do this?

A: In the majority of cases an engagement ring is usually returned on a point of etiquette if it is the recipient who breaks off the engagement. However the law presumes it to be a gift and therefore it is assumed that the recipient will keep it.

Your ex-fiancé could try and refute this by attempting to prove that he gave you the ring conditionally, with the expectation that a marriage would follow, and that if you did not fulfil that condition you should return the ring. Unless he has evidence such as a signed agreement to that effect, you are still under no legal obligation to return the ring.

There is one thing that you might want to check before deciding to keep the ring though – whether your ex might have purchased the ring on finance with the jeweller, or perhaps paid for it on his credit card and still owe money on it. If this is the case then there could be other implications and it may be worthwhile seeking legal advice.

(Article published 10/07/2017)

Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham