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Beyoncé certainly knows the importance of an (engagement) ring to seal the deal in a relationship. For all independent women out there, a ring signifies the joining of two parties happily in love and willing to spend the rest of their lives together. A flawless ring can make you lose your breath and many envious friends will be jumpin’ jumpin’ at a chance to get one of their own.*

But what happens if you and your partner are no longer crazy in love, and they stop being irreplaceable? The fate of your relationship and your beautiful ring might leave you a broken-hearted girl.

What’s the Legal Position?

Whether the ring returns to your ‘baby boy’ will depend on the nature of your relationship before the breakup. Traditionally, Australian law would require the ring to be returned to whoever was the giver of the ring as it is seen as a ‘conditional gift’. This means that the ring is given on the condition that the marriage will take place. If your relationship ends prior to marriage, the ring should be returned (Davies v Messner [1975] 12 SASR 333).

However, these days many couples live together for a while before engagement, after the engagement and before the wedding. This can complicate matters as to who has the legal rights to the ring after a breakup.

Relationship Status

If you have followed the more traditional engagement path and have not lived with your partner before getting engaged, it is unlikely you will be in a de facto relationship. This means that who gets to keep the ring will depend on who called off the wedding. If your man (or woman) refused to go through with the marriage, then (s)he has not fulfilled his/her promise of the gift and can’t demand you return it unless there was some clear legal reasoning behind the refusal. You may be thinking he or she was the best thing you never had and look forward to reclaiming your single lady(or man) status. But if not, then just remember your breakup is not the end of time, and although the ring is off, you are a survivor and can always start over.

If you have been living with your partner and fall within the realm of a de facto relationship, then how the court interprets who receives the ring may be a little different. Usually the requirements to fall within the de facto status are to either have a child together or have been living together for at least 2 years. An engagement ring may fall within the property either of you are entitled to possess upon the relationship ending. The fate of the ring depends on the circumstances of each case and it can be excluded from the asset pool and recognised as a sentimental item if the parties agree.

Getting Advice

After breaking up with a partner you may wish to sell the ring to pay for your bills, bills, bills, or you may find yourself wanting to keep it for sentimental value and remember the times when you were drunk in love.* 

Please note that LegalVision is a commercial law firm and cannot assist with family law matters.

*Disclaimer: LegalVision does not apologise for the amount of Destiny’s Child and Beyonce song references in this article. 


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