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News & Articles

Osborne Morris & Morgan > News and Articles > Family > Engaged? The legal side of Valentine’s Day

Engaged? The legal side of Valentine’s Day

Posted on 30 Jan 2017, in Family

Valentine’s Day is a popular day for getting engaged. For some couples it is the most romantic way possible to take their relationship further with their loved one.

A  recent survey of more than 10,000 people in the UK showed that nearly a quarter of women (23%) thought Valentines was the best time to propose, compared to only 12% of men (who, at 33%, preferred Christmas Eve). Interestingly, Valentine’s Day is the fourth most popular day to get engaged, according to Facebook, after Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.


If you’ve chosen the 14th of February to get engaged, or indeed married, then you’re in star-studded company. Indiana Jones actor Harrison Ford proposed to Calista Flockhart and ‘Sherlock’ Benedict Cumberbatch married Sophie Hunter on Valentine’s Day.

As time passes, it is unfortunately the case that some engaged couples, for whatever reason, do not make it down the aisle on their big day. With separation, all assets have to be divided and arguments can occur over the house, savings and the engagement ring.

What many couples do not know, is that there is legal protection available to protect both of you, should this change in circumstance occur.

3 ways to protect yourself and save potential arguments


1. Living Together Agreement

An increasing number of couples are entering into Living Together Agreements (also called cohabitation agreements) prior to moving in with each other. While the agreements typically set out who owns what (such as savings, property and belongings) and who is responsible for certain things if the relationship should end (such as bank accounts, joint purchases and even debts), you get to decide how much, or how little, detail it goes into.

You may choose to also include the daily management of finances, such as how much each person will pay towards the rent, mortgage and monthly bills.

While swept up in the excitement of getting engaged on such a romantic occasion, putting a living together agreement in place can help define the realistic cohabitation responsibilities at the beginning and save emotional and financial heartache later down the line.


2. Prenups are not just for celebrities

Recent years have seen a big change in couples’ attitudes towards their finances. No longer just for celebrities, the number of couples adding the task of ‘get a prenuptial agreement’ to their pre-wedding checklist, is on the rise.

A prenup, also known as a premarital or prenuptial agreement, is a formal, written agreement between a couple prior to their marriage. In a similar way to a living together arrangement, it sets out ownership of all the belongings (including money, assets and property) and explains how it will be divided in the event of the breakdown of their marriage.

It is worth noting that while prenuptial agreements are now legal and enforceable in the UK, they can still be overwritten or even thrown out of court, so it is vital to have it drawn up by a trusted and reputable solicitor.


3. Who should own the engagement ring?

For many, announcing the engagement to family and friends includes the showing of the ring, whether that be a flashing of the hand or via a photo on social media. While the history of where the engagement ring tradition comes from varies, it’s now a very entrenched part of getting engaged.

Because of its symbolic significance, some men will spend up to three months’ salary on an engagement ring, although the average spend in the UK is just £573! Being an item of high value,  insurance is important and depending on its value, and your insurance policy, you may need to add it as a separate named item.

In the unfortunate circumstances in which an engagement is called off, the question often is, ‘who gets the ring’?

While both parties often feel they have the right to the ring, either because they paid for it or because they received it as a gift, the law around who is entitled to the ring is actually quite straightforward.

The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 states that:

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.

Citizens Advice break this down into plainer language:

If an engagement is broken, a woman can keep the engagement ring unless, at the time she was given it, the man specifically said that it should be returned if the engagement were broken.

It is worth noting that the courts will generally say there was an implied intention that the ring would be returned if it had particular, sentimental value, such as a family heirloom.


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