By Kiran Benipal
Phone: 587-943-1394 x 224

Kiran Benipal

“Do I have to return my engagement ring now that we’ve broken up?”

The circumstances of your particular situation will determine the answer.

No Fault

Section 102 of the Family Law Act states that if a person makes a gift to another in contemplation of, or conditional on, their marriage to each other, and the marriage fails to occur, whether or not the person that gave the ring is at fault for the failure of the relationship is not considered when determining if that person has the right to recover the ring.

This means that the circumstances of the breakup don’t matter for the purposes of determining who gets to keep the ring.

What is a gift?

Property law tells us that there are 3 essential elements to a valid and voluntary gift, and if all three are present the gift is irrevocable or perfected:

  1. There was demonstrated intention of the donor at the time the gift was received;
  2. The gift was delivered physically, in the case of a ring; and
  3. The gift must have been accepted by the donee/recipient. This is often presumed.

Conditional gifts

Engagement rings are treated as “conditional gifts” in Alberta. This means that the ring is given on the condition that the parties will marry. Once they are married, the condition is fulfilled and the ring is presumed a gift. This presumption can be rebutted if there is evidence that a party made it clear that the ring was conditional on the parties remaining together. If the Court finds that the ring is a gift (with no condition attached to it), the recipient will be entitled to keep it.

What happens if we don’t get married?

If you are an adult interdependent partner, you can also look to the Family Property Act for assistance in dividing your property. In Alberta, you are in an adult interdependent partnership, if you have lived with the other person in a relationship of interdependence for a continuous period of not less than 3 years; or you have lived with the other person in a relationship of interdependence of some permanence, if there is a child of the relationship by birth or adoption. If you don’t fall into one of these categories, you can still be in an adult interdependent partnership by entering into an Adult Interdependent Partnership Agreement with the other person pursuant to the regulations set out in the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.

Section 7(3)(d.1) of the Family Property Act states that the Court can distribute property acquired by an adult independent partner from the other adult independent partner at any time after the date in which the relationship of interdependence began. This means that in the event parties cannot decide who will keep the ring after a broken engagement, the Court is able to decide, if the parties were in a relationship of interdependence at the time of the engagement.

In the event that parties do not marry before an engagement is broken off, the case of Bhachu v Brown, 2019 ABQB 150, found that some of the considerations the Court will take into account are: how long parties were engaged and whether or not the parties actually took steps towards marriage. In this case in particular, the parties were engaged for 5 years with no concrete steps taken, which worked as evidence to support that the ring was a gift, and not a conditional offering. The Court determined that the engagement ring should be kept by the party who received it. The case of Bhachu v Brown determined that the Court should give consideration to the intention of the gifting party, along with any evidence that disproves the gift as conditional.

What happens to the ring after we get married?

Section 7(3)(d) of the Family Property Act states that the Court can distribute property acquired by a spouse by gift from the other spouse during any period in which the parties were in a relationship of interdependence with each other immediately before the marriage, in a manner that it considers just and equitable.

In the case of Peermohamed v Pirani, 2018 ABQB 968 the Honorable Justice S. L. Hunt MacDonald determined that the engagement ring was a gift from the Husband to the Wife prior to the wedding. Because the ring was given prior to the marriage, it was exempt from division, and the Wife was entitled to keep the ring.

Contact Us

Every case is unique. This article is not a replacement for receiving legal advice from a lawyer regarding your particular circumstances. If you need any help regarding the return of engagement rings, either before or after marriage, please contact us online or call 587-943-1394.