When the US Basketball player, Ben Simmons, proposed to Presenter, Maya Jama, she probably never thought she would be embroiled in a legal row regarding the ownership of the £800,000 engagement ring. Yet Mr Simmons sent Miss Jama a legal letter demanding the return of the ring after their engagement broke down.
So, what is the legal position regarding the engagement ring if the big day never goes ahead?
There is a presumption that an engagement ring is given as an ‘absolute gift’ and it therefore belongs to the person it was given to. If the engagement breaks down, no matter what the reason, or who calls it off, the ring does not have to be given back.
The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 states:
“The gift of an engagement ring shall be presumed to be an absolute gift; this presumption may be rebutted by proving that the ring was given on the condition, express or implied, that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place for any reason.”
Are there any exceptions?
If the ring is given on the condition that the marriage takes place, it should be returned if the marriage does not then go ahead.
Often the court is willing to accept there was an implied intention that the ring would be returned if it was a family heirloom or had particular sentimental value.
In the circumstances, if the ring is intended to be conditional on the marriage taking place, it is always best to confirm this in writing.
But, who gets the engagement ring if you are married and then divorce?
The starting point is that legal position is the same whether the relationship breaks down before or after marriage.
If the parties intend the ring should be returned if the marriage breaks down, then it might be wise to incorporate that condition into a pre-nuptial agreement. However, it should be noted these agreements are not absolutely binding, but they are a factor which is taken into consideration in any financial settlement and they can be persuasive and decisive in some cases.
If there is no evidence as to intention and nothing in writing to indicate that the ring would be returned, it is still possible to ask the court to consider the issue. However, given the high cost of litigation, this should always be the last resort and, in most cases, the cost of litigation will almost certainly outweigh the value of the ring.
Lyons Davidson solicitors have a dedicated team specialising in Family Law and would be able to advise you on the options that are available to you. Please contact us on 0344 251 0070. You can also email us at [email protected]