Deciding which party gets to keep the engagement ring after a separation can be a heated issue for many people, particularly in shorter relationships.
In the NSW case of Papathanasopoulos v Vacopoulos (2007), Ms Papathanasopoulos called off her engagement to Mr Vacopoulos. Mr Vacopoulos began proceedings in relation to the $15,000.00 engagement ring that Ms Papathanasopoulos threw in the garbage. The couple were not married or in a de facto relationship, so the Family Law Act did not apply. The Court classed the engagement ring as a "conditional gift", with the condition being that the two parties would eventually marry. Should this marriage not go ahead, the Court said that the ring is to be returned to the person who gave that gift, unless there is legal justification not to return the engagement ring.
Where the Family Law Act does apply, meaning that the couple were either married or de facto, the engagement ring forms part of the asset pool for distribution. As is the case with any asset or liability in the asset pool, the question of who is entitled to it depends upon a variety of factors, including its value, the financial and non-financial contributions of each party and the parties’ future needs.
Often, particularly in longer marriages, the engagement ring does not form part of the asset pool. It is commonplace for neither party to raise the issue of the engagement ring given the sentimental value. The common "practice of excluding engagement rings from the balance sheet" was noted by the Judge in the case of Damiani v Damiani (2012). Nonetheless, there is no default position as to whether or not the engagement ring is to be included in the asset pool.
Like with most items of personal property, the typical example being a car, an engagement ring will usually be worth far less than what it was purchased for, particularly if many years have elapsed between purchase of the ring and distribution of the asset pool.
If you require more information on the above please contact Nevine Youssef on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 02 4626 5077.
The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.