Engagement rings can be awfully expensive, and when an engagement doesn’t lead to marriage, the giver of the ring might want to ask for it back. But does someone have the right to ask for an engagement ring back if a marriage fails to materialize? The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently dealt with a separation where that question was one (of many) the separated couple needed the court’s help to resolve.
An engagement and a breakup
The parties began their relationship sometime prior to 2009. In 2009 the respondent moved into a home owned by the applicant. They eventually bought a house that they owned as joint tenants. The court did not specify a date, but at some point, the applicant purchased an engagement ring for the respondent, who accepted it.
In 2015 the applicant was arrested and removed from the home after being charged with domestic violence against the respondent. He eventually pleads guilty to the assault. While they tried to save the relationship, it ultimately fell apart.
There were a number of issues the court had to deal with, but the one we are focusing on today was that of the engagement ring.
The engagement ring
The applicant proposed to the respondent, providing her with an engagement ring. However, it was his argument that the ring was given on the condition of marriage. This point was not disputed by the respondent.
To follow the applicant’s logic, if the condition of the gift (the ring) was marriage, and that condition was not fulfilled, he should be entitled to have the ring returned to him.
The respondent’s position was that it was the applicant’s fault the marriage did not take place and that the law does not require her to return the ring. While each of the parties wanted to get into the weeds as to whose fault it was that the relationship failed, the court refused to entertain such an argument since the Marriage Act states that “Where one person makes a gift to another in contemplation of or conditional upon their marriage to each other and the marriage fails to take place or is abandoned, the question of whether or not the failure or abandonment was caused by or was the fault of the donor shall not be considered in determining the right of the donor to recover the gift.”
With that in mind, the court turned to the question of the timing of the request for the ring to be returned. The court said the failure to ask for the ring to be returned when it is clear the marriage is no longer happening could support a finding that the gift was unconditional, but that in this case, the conditional nature of the gift was not an issue. Since the parties agreed it was conditional on the marriage, the court found that the applicant still owned the ring and ordered the respondent to return it to the applicant.
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