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What happens to the engagement ring in family law settlements?

Small in size but not in significance, the engagement ring and who retains possession of it after a relationship breakdown is often an issue of much angst. Traditionally, the decision was simplified and generally the person who gave the ring was entitled to its return, but in society today, the decision is not always as clear cut as the diamond. In a family law settlement, the engagement ring will be treated in the same manner as any other asset of the parties and there is no presumption that it be retained by one party or the other.

Take, for example, Jackson v Jackson (1998) 88 FLR 294. The parties separated whilst on their honeymoon and the court held that the husband was entitled to the ring. On the other hand, in In the Marriage of Beneke [1996] FamCa 82, the couple separated having been married together less than a year, and the wife was entitled to keep the ring.

The engagement ring is often excluded from property settlement negotiations due to its sentimental value and comparatively low value in comparison to other assets. Yet, if raised by either party, an engagement ring can become part of the total value of the property pool. This was the case in Damiani & Damiani [2012] FamCA 535 where the ring ended up as part of the husband’s share of assets.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers


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