Date updated: Wednesday 28th February 2024

Whilst some may argue it is pessimistic to consider such an eventuality, it is a regrettable reality that not every engagement ends in a couple walking down the aisle. This can on occasion mean that disputes arise regarding the ownership of the engagement ring.

What does UK law say?

Engagement rings are presumed to be treated as absolute gifts and the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 provides that “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”.

Therefore, much is dependent on the intention of the parties under UK law. Should someone wish for the ring to be returned to them in the event of separation, it would be sensible for this to be recorded in writing, however un-romantic this may seem. There is otherwise the distinct likelihood that the ring will be considered to be a gift and non-returnable.

Can courts get involved?

Whilst in theory a court can determine whether or not there was an intention for the ring to be returned, the cost of applying to the court will likely outweigh the cost of the ring itself. This being said, the court may in some cases be persuaded that there was an implied intention that the ring would be returned on breakdown if, for example, the ring was a family heirloom.

Would separation and divorce affect ownership of an engagement ring?

In the event that a couple marries and later separates and/or divorces, the value of any engagement ring would be considered as part of the financial resources available to the parties. If there were any specific intentions with regard to the ring, it would be preferable for these to be recorded as part of a pre-nuptial agreement setting out the division of assets in the event of a later separation.

What happens if an engagement ring has been bought on credit?

Finance is often used for the purchase of larger items such as engagement rings and, if a couple break-up, can leave one party paying off an expensive bill. When this happens disputes can be acrimonious and, as outlined above, a court may be asked to intervene although any litigation may prove more expensive than the cost of the ring. The ring’s ownership may likely be resolved in any financial settlement proceedings.

Our Family Team at Stone King LLP offers further guidance regarding gifts and pre-nuptial agreements. Please call 01225 337 599 if you require any assistance. You can also email us at