Separated couples are often faced with the issue of who keeps the engagement ring.
The answer to this question depends on many factors, such as the length of the relationship, the value of the engagement ring and whether the parties married or not.
In some matters, engagement rings are excluded from the property pool unless it is of significant value. One of the reasons why it can be excluded from the property pool is because it can be perceived as a gift. Some separated couples come to an agreement between themselves that the party who received the ring will retain it as it was a gift to them by the other party.
However, this may not always be the case …
In the matter of Papathanasopoulos v Vacopoulos  NSWSC 502, Mr V gave an engagement ring to Ms P which she accepted in contemplation of marrying Mr V. She then broke off the engagement and disposed of the ring in the trash. The Court said that the wife was the holder of a “conditional gift”, meaning that the engagement ring would become her property only if the parties married. It was further said that, at law, a woman who has received a ring in contemplation of marriage, and who later refuses to marry, must return the ring unless there is some other reason.
In the matter of Marsden & Baker  FamCA 320, the parties had married and the wife sold the engagement ring to pay for her legal fees and general living expenses. It was decided that the proceeds of sale would form part of the property pool.
In summary, if there is no agreement as to who should retain the engagement ring or if there is uncertainty as to whether it can be sold or not, it is best to obtain legal advice.