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Family Law Specialist Chris McIntosh on ownership of wedding and engagement rings following a breakdown in a relationship

An article recently on the BBC website revealed what readers had done with their wedding rings following Divorce. This varied from continuing to wear them to throwing them into the sea.In the case of wedding rings, there is little doubt that these belong to the person who receives them at the wedding. There is no presumption that the wedding ring should be returned upon Divorce.  The situation is slightly different with regard to engagement rings.  Here, there is a presumption that an engagement ring is an outright gift unless it can be shown that it was conditional upon the wedding taking place. It is difficult to imagine a better way to destroy a romantic moment than going down on one knee to propose and following up with a caveat that the ring is only on loan until the wedding, and must be returned following a Breakdown of the Relationship.Whether or not such an unromantic caveat is provided, once the wedding has taken place, the engagement ring is non-returnable.  This can be difficult to stomach where the engagement ring was a family heirloom.  In circumstances where there are Children, the simplest solution may be to agree that the ring will pass to the next generation in due course.  Where there are no Children and the ex-wife refuses to return the ring on the (legitimate) basis that it was a gift, a Judge may well resolve this by returning it to the husband on the basis that he provides the value of the ring to the wife in order for her to purchase a replacement.By Chris McIntosh, Family Law expert