Family Law Blog

Engagement Ring Law in BC

Engagement Ring Law in BC

It’s often said that diamonds are forever. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for engagements. A recent study carried out in the United States found that 20 per cent of all engagements are called off before the wedding. With the cost of engagement rings starting in the low four figures, many of these couples are left wondering what happens to the engagement ring in the event of a failed engagement. In this week’s blog, we’re going to look at engagement ring law in British Columbia.

Engagement Ring Law in BC

BC Family Law is quite clear that if an engagement ends prematurely before the marriage occurs, the ring is to be returned to the party that purchased it. While other provinces have enshrined this position with laws, British Columbia doesn’t have any specific legislation relating to engagement rings. Instead, we must look to legal precedent to find our answers.

In 2016, the BC Supreme Court presided over the case of P.S v. H.R. The court found that the gift of an engagement ring is conditional on marriage, and therefore returnable upon the failure of that condition to transpire:

In British Columbia, the law relating to engagement rings is reasonably well-settled.  In Hitchcox v. Harper, [1996] B.C.J. No. 1861, the court pondered competing lines of authority, one which treated engagement rings as absolute gifts not returnable upon a termination of the engagement, and another which treated the gift of an engagement ring as being conditional on marriage and therefore returnable upon the failure of the condition.  The court followed the latter line of authority.

But wait, there’s a twist in this particular tale.

Some months following their break-up, the two parties had a discussion in which the intention was made clear for Ms. R to keep the ring as an outright gift.

When Ms. R. attempted to return the engagement ring to Mr. S. he insisted that she keep it and, when she asked “So you’re giving this to me?”, he said “yes”. He suggested she try to take the ring back and use the money to help with her daughter’s wedding. These are words evincing a clear intention to make an absolute gift.

A Conditional Gift, Unless it Isn’t

BC Family Courts will typically view the engagement ring as a conditional gift that should be returned to the buyer unless other arrangements are made between the couple. It’s highly advised to record any such arrangements in an official manner to avoid any unnecessary stress in the event of a failed engagement.

Find Out More

Westside Family Law can assist with any legal aspect of the engagement process. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.