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Who keeps “the ring” after an Ontario divorce?

A man holding an engagement ring after a divorce

Original Publish Date: November 29, 2017

Revised: September 28th, 2022

Making the decision to end a marriage or break off an engagement will inevitably lead to a number of personal, emotional and financial consequences.

In the middle of the different issues that require attention during this time, a common question is about the ownership of engagement and wedding rings. In circumstances where the ring might be especially valuable or might have sentimental value as an heirloom that was passed down, it can be a big deal as to who is the rightful owner following the separation.

Etiquette vs the Law when Married

Many might suggest that common politeness and etiquette says that the ring should be given back to the party who purchased it after the end of the marriage or engagement.

However, in Ontario there is no legal obligation to return a ring – it is seen as a gift and the one who receives the ring is given ownership.

Dealing with Engagement Rings

One of the most frequently asked questions in the wake of a broken engagement is, who gets to keep the ring? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, as it can vary depending on the situation. 

However, if they are unable to reach a decision, it may be up to a judge to decide who gets to keep the ring. 

Generally speaking, the court will consider factors such as who purchased the ring and whether one party was at fault for the breakup. Even in these cases, there is no guarantee that the court will rule in favor of either party. 

Though there is no law in Canada that dictates the proper procedure for ring ownership after a broken engagement, the ring is typically seen as a symbol of contractual obligation. If the bride-to-be breaks off the engagement the ring should be returned.

On the other hand, if the groom-to-be initiates the breakup, the bride-to-be may have an argument to keep the ring on grounds that the groom is in breach of the verbal contract to marry.

Is an engagement ring a gift? 

While the engagement ring is often seen as a symbol of everlasting love and gift for that special someone, the truth is that the relationship between an engagement ring and its owner is not always so simple. 

In some cases, an engagement ring may be given back or exchanged after the relationship has ended even if it was given as a gift. Additionally, an engagement ring may need to be returned if the couple cannot afford to get married. 

While some couples are able to return their engagement rings without any legal complications, others may need to seek the assistance of a lawyer in order to return the ring. 

Is it worth the fight?

It is possible to decide to go to court to try to reclaim a ring after a separation. This may be the case if the ring is extremely valuable, or if there is strong sentimental significance – otherwise, the cost of a trial will outweigh the value of most rings.

For more information specific to your personal situation and to find if you should pursue or defend your rights to ownership of an engagement or wedding ring, consult with Epstein & Associates. Our experienced legal team has worked through many diverse family law cases, which gives us the professionalism and expertise required to protect your interests.

When to get professional advice

Before starting divorce proceedings, it’s recommended that you seek professional legal advice from a divorce lawyer. 

A lawyer can walk you through how the law applies to your individual circumstances.

In a lot of cases, there are other claims that need to be made in addition to the divorce itself. We therefore strongly recommend that you consult with a lawyer prior to filing in court.

Contact us to schedule your free consultation.

This blog is made available by the law firm publisher, Epstein & Associates, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. Any specific questions about your legal concerns please contact us now and speak to an expert today.