Skip to content

Our Ontario Lawyers

When success matters, there is no substitute for the advantage that comes from experience.

Search for a lawyer below:


Search Results

We're sorry, We cannot locate any lawyers with that criteria. Please search again.

Sort By:

Experience and Expertise:

How Can We Help? We’ll be happy to match you to the right qualified Lerners Lawyer.

Put a Ring on It (And Take It Back?)

5 minute read
Also authored by: Anita Osmani

Navigating legal and financial issues that impact your life when your family dynamic changes can be challenging. Subscribe to FamilyMatters, our Lerners Family Law blog series, which provides insightful information and helps you determine your next steps. 

An engagement ring can hold a lot of value to the heart and wallet. But what happens with the ring if the engagement is called off? Is it considered a gift? Is it a failed contract? Do you morally have to return it?

Courts (and couples) have battled as to whether these rings should be classified as conditional gifts, unconditional gifts, or as contracts. As is the case with anything law related, the evidence and evidentiary record will be key in the outcome.

With only a handful of cases on the topic, the courts have taken different approaches in determining the ownership of engagement rings. Historically, courts looked at who broke off the engagement—if the donor ended the relationship, the donee would keep the ring, and if the donee ended it, it had to be returned. Essentially, whoever ends the engagement loses their right to the ring.

But it is not as simple as that… That easy rule has not stood the test of time:

In the unfortunate event that an engagement is called off, the presumed standard is that the engagement ring should be returned to the person who gifted it. While there is no hard-fast legislative rule to this, judges have attempted to discern this based on the evidence at hand.

Section 33 of Ontario’s Marriage Act governs the return of gifts that were made in contemplation of marriage. According to this section of the Act, where a person makes a gift to another (in this case, an engagement ring) in contemplation of, or conditional upon, the marriage and the marriage fails to take place or is abandoned, the question of whether the donor caused the breakdown or is at fault is not relevant in determining the right of the donor in recovering the ring. In other words, fault for the engagement ending is not a valid consideration.

Some judges have found that engagement rings are unconditional gifts. In such cases, the ring is owned by the person who receives it. This position or argument can be tricky and may not hold up in all situations given that it is inconsistent with section 33 of the Marriage Act, which expressly allows for gifts in contemplation of a marriage or conditional upon the marriage taking place.

On the other hand, some may argue that an engagement ring is a conditional gift in contemplation of the marriage. This may hold up in situations where the donor makes a timely demand for the return of the ring or if the ring is a family heirloom, especially where there is evidence of this.[1] The longer you stay silent on asking for the ring back, the more likely it will be deemed that the ring was intended as a gift and was meant to be kept by the recipient.

While timely demand is a consideration, it is not a stand-alone test for the return of engagement rings. Rather, the timing of the demand serves as important evidence as to the nature of the gift. If you’re delayed in requesting the return of the ring, that could support a finding that the ring was an unconditional gift.

Conversely, in the case of Lamacchia v Carullo, 2022 ONSC 6366 (CanLII), the court held that the mother could keep the $14,000 engagement ring that was gifted to her on Christmas morning even though the father demanded its return just two months after they separated. The court found that the mother’s evidence of Christmas being a traditional time for gift-giving, and her evidence of what the father said to her that morning, was more persuasive. The mother was granted the option of retaining the ring or returning it to the father for a $14,000 credit from the proceeds of the sale of the family home.[2]

Some tips we can offer on how to ensure you can get the ring back

Make it clear that the ring is a gift in contemplation of the marriage, and make sure you make a timely request for the return of the ring if the marriage fails to take place or is abandoned (and maybe don’t propose on Christmas/traditional gift-giving days).

Overall, it’s safe to presume that when an engagement is called off, engagement rings should be returned to the person who gave it to you unless there is evidence of a contrary intention by the person who gifted you the ring. At the end of the day, the evidence will play a significant role in determining whether the ring may or may not be recoverable.

It’s also important to note that an engagement ring and other assets and property are treated differently when parties are married. We always recommend seeking the expertise of a lawyer who can help you sort out your affairs.

Calling off an engagement can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. Our experienced team can ease the transition by looking into what rights you have, what assets are part of the relationship, how your assets and properties can be divided, and how to ensure your interests are best protected whilst achieving a fair and equitable outcome.

[1] Lamacchia v Carullo, 2022 ONSC 687 (CanLII) at 60.

[2] Ibid at 61.

At Lerners, we understand the delicate nature of domestic and family-related legal decisions and appreciate the emotional toll they can have on those involved. Our team, located in Southwestern Ontario and Toronto, will work tirelessly to protect your interests and achieve the best possible outcome to get the closure you deserve. With a successful track record that includes some of Canada's most complex family law cases, we dedicate ourselves to achieving results and helping you move forward with your life. Contact us today to see how we can help.

LERNx Sidebar


Our lawyers are committed to making the law easier to access for all by publishing high-quality and industry-leading content.

Michelle Raithby

We are here to help.

Do you have any questions about your unique scenario? Feel free to reach out directly by visiting my Lerners Profile View My Full Profile