When a couple get engaged it is a time for celebration, congratulations and often a great party. However, what are the legal implications of getting engaged, if any?
It used to be the case that a man’s promise to marry was considered in many countries to be an enforceable contract. It was rarely to make the same consideration for the woman, as she had “the right to change her mind”, although she may pay a high social price in many places for doing so.
There are certain states in the United States where legal action can still be brought for breach of contract to marry, such cases have been brought as recently as 2010.
In this country actions were very rare and the right to bring such actions were formally brought to an end in 1970. At this point it was decided that an agreement to marry did not give rise to a contract giving legal rights.
If the engaged couple own property or land together, under certain circumstances, the property will be treated by the courts as if they were married.
Perhaps the most important issue is gifts that are made between an engaged couple, which can often cause arguments at a later stage.
Andrew Stynes, Head of our Family Team, goes on to say “The gift of an engagement ring is presumed to be an absolute gift. However, if it can be shown that the gift was made on condition that it would be returned if the marriage does not take place, then the ring should be returned. This is usually relevant where an engagement ring is a family heirloom, for example.”
In conclusion, whilst an engagement does not form a legal contract, there are certain aspects where the engagement can have legal ramifications.
Our Family Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Andrew or his team, will be happy to chat about your situation and you particular requirements.