When an engaged couple discovers that they don’t want to carry the relationship any further, they decide to separate. The entire experience can be very painful, with immense impact on the partners, their friends and families. If they were business-partners or involved in joint enterprises, this could also have financial implications.
Aside from these issues, broken engagements may bring up a variety of other problems. If the couple were in a marriage-like relationship, have children together, cohabiting or in a common-law marriage prior to the engagement, there could be scope for a common-law action.
An experienced separation lawyer can provide the right information in case you have any concerns if an engagement between partners of the same or opposite sex has been broken.
Reasons for Broken Engagements
Relationships can break up for a variety of reasons, as individualistic as the couple themselves.
- Religious and cultural differences
- Differences regarding finances
- Habits that irritate
- Children and exes
- Children non-accepting of partner
- Adult children’s objections
- Lack of support in making important decisions
- Interference by prospective in-laws
- Socio-economic status differences
These issues may have not been resolved in the earlier stages of the relationship. They tend to come to the forefront when commitment seems to be looming ahead. It’s wise for couples to have a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement to avoid problems later.
Rights and Regulations
Under Ontario laws, the Marriage Act does not permit action to be brought by either partner for breach of promise or damages resulting from the break-up. However, based on the circumstances, a common-law action may be initiated.
This allows a partner to bring action and recover damages in respect of specific losses – for instance, if wedding arrangements were paid for, or advances were paid to caterers, photographers etc for the engagement ceremony. If the wedding date was set and expenses connected with it were already incurred, a claim can be brought.
A lot of thought, time, effort and expense are usually put into the engagement ring. In the event of a broken engagement, one of the major points of contention is about who gets to keep the ring.
The ring is usually considered to be a gift. Under the law, a gift requires:
- The giver’s intention to give it as a gift
- Actual giving
- Receiver’s acceptance of the gift
In most cases, all these three elements are fulfilled and the engagement ring is considered to be a gift, which the receiver can keep.
However, engagement rings can also be viewed as conditional gifts, which are conditional upon the future expectation of marriage. When the agreed-upon event does not materialize, the giver has the right to get it back.
There could be several arguments and disputes concerning these aspects in a broken engagement.
In Ontario, the question of who caused the break-up is irrelevant and the general rule is that the ring must be returned to the giver. However, in case law, there have been several instances in Ontario where the contrary has been ruled.
Whatever the circumstances, it’s important that matters are settled smoothly and swiftly between the partners and disputes are avoided.