Is It Legal To Keep The Engagement Ring After Calling Off The Wedding?

Is It Legal To Keep The Engagement Ring After Calling Off The Wedding?

You’re a bride-to-be and it’s a week out from the big day. You’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach for a few days now and you finally give into your doubts about your would-be husband. You call off the wedding. You look at the diamond engagement ring nestled snugly on your finger and think to yourself, “Surely, I can still keep this.”

Engagement ring image from Shutterstock

While you would assume the engagement ring is a gift and therefore can be kept by the recipient, the law would disagree. Whether or not you can keep that shiny rock after you pull the plug on your wedding is dependent on a few factors, including how long you and your jilted lover were in a relationship for.

If you and your ex-partner were engaged and living together for a period of over two years, then it would be considred a de facto relationship. If you’ve been in a relationship for less than two years but have had a child together, that would still be considered a de facto arrangement.

Under the Family Law Act 1975, the engagement right will become part of the property settlement, which is handled by the legal representative of both parties. Depending on how the settlement pans out, you may be able to keep the ring, even if your ex-partner demands that you return it to him.

But if a couple had not been living together for at least two years before the relationship fell apart, then it would not considered a de facto arrangement and property disputes will go through the State Courts, which will then decide who gets what.

According to Andersons Solicitors:

In the Family Law jurisdiction, the Court has to assess the ownership and value of the property pool. This is based on the evidence put before the Court by the parties. Generally it is only cost effective to include ‘big ticket’ items, which are items of significant value such as real property, share portfolios, superannuation or investments.
If an engagement ring was purchased for a modest sum of say $3,000.00, it is likely the real second hand value is much less. Generally neither the parties nor the Court would include the ring in the property pool as a separate item, but it may simply form part of the parties ‘personal effects’.

It is likely that, at this stage, legal representatives for each party will advise them to stop squabbling over the engagement ring, given that’s it’s not worth a lot in the grander scheme of things. The legal fees would amount to more than the value of the ring itself if the pair continues to quarrel over the it.

It may not be the most pleasant process, but the matter of who gets the ring will then have to be settled privately.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


  • The precedent was set in 1926 by the British High Court, which ruled that an engagement ring is a conditional gift – that is, it is conditional on the marriage going ahead.

    So, while family law complicates things (as per above), the civil law general precedent is that if the wedding is called off by the engagement ring recipient or by mutual consent, the gift must be returned. If the marriage is called off by the person who gave the ring, then the gift can be kept.

  • ….I dodged a bullet then. Called it off before I gave my ex a ring, sold it, brought a motor bike then made two trips to Taiwan riding bikes around the country. It was an expensive ring, but best decision I ever made. 🙂

  • Why would you want to keep the Ring? Especially if you’re the one who ended it why would you want to keep it?

    Surely the classy thing is to give it back.

    I don’t know about the rest of you guys but if I met a lady who had kept her Ex’s Engagement Ring, that’s pretty much a massive warning to break it off immediately.

    • They would keep it more so for reselliing it, might get a bit less then the original cost but she wasn’t the one who bought it so whether she gets $500, $2000 or $10000 for it, she comes out on top. It would be the ultimate f you to the man also.

      • OK Greed is the obvious reason but generally even when people are being greedy, they don’t want to admit it.

        And my final point is eventually somebody who knows her (or even him) is going to tell me about the previous engagement and ultimately what happened to the ring.

        • True, but if she is enough of a bitch to sell the ring, she would be enough of a bitch to never tell anyone the truth and make up a story about the ex taking it.

          I think most people would return the ring, usually by throwing it at the other person as they walk out, because it would be a reminder of a failed relationship. If on the other hand they keep the ring in a box somewhere, or worse, wear it out, probably best to assume they are a bit crazy.

    • My ex had one from her <1yr total relationship. Apparently she had it custom designed or something and kept it, and wore it pretty much all the time.

      Yeah, she had a ton of red flags.

  • In general, great answer, with bonus points for its brevity. There could be some caveats though … “If he breaks if off, because he caught you ****ing someone else, give it back”.

  • I wonder if legally there’s a preference to give the ring back to the giver if it is a family heirloom. Etiquette says that it should be returned regardless of fault, but I guess if the giver is at fault and a real piece of work then it might be a bit more acceptable to keep it, just not classy.

  • Time to end these one sided traditions (in the name of equality right?) 😉

    If you are going to shack up together for over 2 years, possibly have kids, etc getting married down the track seems like something you are doing for the sake/views of others (or to just give you the opportunity to have a divorce). Seems like an silly thing to do (giving an engagement ring to signify what? You’ve done it all already!) when you look at it objectively.

    If you are going to do the traditional thing then give a ring, get the nod, get married then shack up!

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