February typically sees a flurry of proposals with Valentine’s Day and this year, there is the unique Leap Day on 29 February.

But love’s path isn’t always smooth, and so it’s important to consider a less talked-about topic – what happens to the engagement ring if things don’t work out?

What does the law say?

In England and Wales, the law typically sees engagement rings as ‘absolute gifts’. This means once the ring is on your finger, it’s yours to keep, marriage or not. This rule applies to everyone, whether it’s a woman proposing to a man during a leap year or vice versa. Who bought the ring or the gender of who proposed doesn’t change this.

However, there can be some exceptions to the ‘absolute gift’ rule. If the ring is a cherished family heirloom passed down through generations, or if you both agreed it should go back to the giver if the engagement ended, then the situation might be different. It all boils down to the intent behind the gift when it was given.

If the relationship breaks down, the issue gets trickier when discussions turn to who gets what, like assets and property rights. Engaged couples do not have the same legal rights as married ones, but sometimes they might have extra protections compared to couples who are just cohabiting. Understanding each other’s intentions from the outset can prevent future disputes.

If you find yourself tangled in an engagement ring dispute or any family law issue, please contact Yasmin Khan-Gunns.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.