A proposal is momentous. In the surrealness of the moment you both look down at the ring, glistening in all its glory, and admire it. You are ecstatic and excited for the future.
Months or years pass and the bubble you were living in sadly bursts. You can’t help but wonder – who keeps the ring if the relationship ends?
Diamonds are forever …or are they?
The starting position is that an engagement ring is treated as a gift. This means it is kept by the recipient and they are free to do with it what they like. However sometimes another route can be followed. If you want to make sure you can keep the ring – or make sure it is returned – it is important to take active steps as soon as possible.
How to protect your position
Engagement rings are generally valuable and are sometimes family heirlooms which have emotional as well as financial significance. Whether before or after the marriage has taken place entering into a formal agreement about what should happen to the ring is crucial. While many see such an agreement as unromantic, they are simply an insurance policy, a sensible step in case the worst happens.
Before marriage If you wish to protect the ring prior to marriage you should enter into a cohabitation agreement or a pre-nuptial agreement. While these are not absolutely watertight, if a court was asked to adjudicate on the issue of an engagement ring, an agreement which complies with the legal requirements will be highly persuasive, often conclusive.
After marriage You can enter into a post-nuptial agreement dictating what happens to the ring, which similarly will carry significant weight if prepared by a specialist lawyer.
If no agreement exists and it is not agreed that the ring should stay with the recipient then in financial negotiations or court proceedings in the event of divorce, it will be taken into account as an asset. The starting position will be that it stays with the recipient, but it is possible to seek its sale or for it to be returned to the other party. This is much more uncertain and questions of proportionality will arise if legal costs are being incurred which start to eclipse the value of the ring. This difficulty can be avoided by giving pragmatic advance thought to what should happen to the engagement ring at the outset of the engagement.
TV Edwards’s Family Finance team has broad experience in all kinds of agreements between couples and regularly advises those getting married on how to protect themselves and their assets. Contact Anesha Pavaday at Anesha.Pavaday@tvedwards.com for a complimentary copy of our brochure on pre nuptial and post nuptial agreements or bespoke advice on your engagement ring.
Disclaimer: The information on the TV Edwards website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication.