Mariah Carey looks set to keep hers, but who should get custody of the engagement ring when a couple split?

Who gets custody of the ring when a couple doesn't make it up the aisle? [Photo: Getty]
Who gets custody of the ring when a couple doesn’t make it up the aisle? [Photo: Getty]

Breaking up is hard to do, particularly if, like Mariah Carey, you’re all set to walk up the aisle. Not only do you have to cancel the vicar, tear up the seating plan and kiss goodbye to your dream dress, but you also have to figure out who gets custody of the engagement ring.

In Mariah Carey’s case, she’s planning on holding onto her 35 Carat, $10 million diamond and platinum engagement ring. And who could blame her? Following her spit in October from fiancé, Australian billionaire James Packer, Carey has even been seen out and about with her ring firmly in place, despite no suggestion of the couple getting back together.

But though, most of us aren’t going to have a ring costing the best part of $10 million dollars to wrangle over, the situation of what to do with the ring is something all couples from broken engagements can likely relate to.

So what do you do with the ring if you’re no longer betrothed? Or rather what should you do with the ring?

“Where an engaged couple sadly doesn’t make it to the altar, the issue of who keeps the engagement ring is often fiercely contested,” explains Stuart Parker at Richard Nelson LLP.

“This is particularly so if the ring in question is a big rock and there are strong emotions at play!” Er, Mariah?

But according to Stuart Parker, the law in relation to the ring’s ownership is clear.

“The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 states: The gift of an engagement ring shall be presumed to be an absolute gift; this presumption may be rebutted by proving that the ring was given on the condition, express or implied, that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place for any reason.”

“As stated, the presumption can only be rebutted by evidence of prior agreement (either stated or implied) between the couple that, in the event of the cancellation of the nuptials, the ring will be returned to its giver,” he continued.

“Basically, although it can seem unfair, this means that unless there was an agreement to return the engagement ring if the wedding was cancelled then the recipient is under no obligation to return the ring.”

So in most cases, if you didn’t agree that you would return the ring should you split, it’s basically yours to keep. There are some exceptions though.

“If there is evidence that the ring was a treasured family heirloom then it is possible to argue the existence of an implied intention that it should be returned in the event of the engagement being called off,” Stuart Parker explains.

“Few couples have the stomach or wallet to go to law to determine any dispute regarding an engagement ring unless there are other financial assets to consider,” he continues.

Mariah Carey's $10 million 35 Carat engagement ring [Photo: Getty]
Mariah Carey’s $10 million 35 Carat engagement ring [Photo: Getty]

So though you’re likely to be legally entitled to keep the ring, what about morally? For some women, it’s a question of whether they are the one who was wronged or the one who did the wronging.

When Jenny* split with her fiancé after she found out he’d been having an affair she decided to keep the ring as some kind of compensation for the way she’d been treated.

“Because of the way things ended I have no sentimental attachment to the ring. Just looking at it makes me feel a bit sick,” she explains.

Jenny plans to sell the ring at some point in the future and will use the money to treat herself to a holiday or another piece of jewellery.

Lucy* on the other hand has a very different reason for keeping the engagement ring she was given by her ex fiancé.

“James* was my first love,” she explains. “We got together when we were really young and were engaged a couple of years later. There was no one else involved in the split, we just grew apart.”

When the couple broke off the engagement both agreed that Lucy should keep the ring.

“I offered to give it back, but James said he’d bought it for me and didn’t want anyone else to have it,” she said. Lucy keeps the ring in a jewellery box in her bedroom and is glad she did keep it for the sentimental value. “It was an important stage in my life,” she explains. “Plus the fact that James was so nice has made me feel guilty about doing anything else with it.”

Should you take out an engagement ring prenup? [Photo: Getty]
Should you take out an engagement ring prenup? [Photo: Getty]

In Mariah’s case some people have argued she should sell the ring and donate the money to charity, which is obviously a nice idea. But there could be a personal reason the singer wants to hang onto the rock. According to some reports, the ring was designed by her friend, Wilfredo Rosado. So, while we’re probably on safe ground assuming Mariah has a whole stack of diamond rings to choose from, maybe she still has some kind of sentimental attachment to this particular ring?

For Mariah and her ex, there’s obviously an extreme monetary value attached to the ring, but some lawyers are suggesting that all couples enter into a legal agreement to save wrangling over the ring in the case of a split, particularly if the ring was on the pricey side.

“Where a ring is very valuable, either because it is an heirloom or has monetary value, it is advisable (but not very romantic) to enter an agreement at the outset about who will keep the ring in the event of a breakdown of relations,” advises Zoe Bloom Family lawyer at Keystone Law.

Engagement ring pre-nup anyone?

Who do you think should keep the ring when a couple split? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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