US Magazine reported that Chelsea Houska, the star of Teen Mom 2, just got engaged to her boyfriend Cole DeBoer earlier this week. The newly engaged starlet has proudly been tweeting pictures of her flashy new diamond engagement ring and sharing her happiness with the world.
Should the unfortunate happen and the engagement is broken off before the wedding, the biggest question is who gets to keep the ring?
Engagement rings are tricky business and, given the emotional and monetary value often invested in them, can be a huge point of contention in an already difficult breakup. In Ontario, the law on this matter is rather murky. Section 33 of the Ontario Marriage Act states the following:
"s. 33. Where one person makes a gift to another in contemplation of or conditional upon their marriage to each other and the marriage fails to take place or is abandoned, the question of whether or not the failure or abandonment was caused by or was the fault of the donor shall not be considered in determining the right of the donor to recover the gift"
Whether or not an engagement ring is actually gift made in "contemplation of or conditional upon the marriage" to the giver is uncertain as the case law demonstrates different approaches across many situations.
Some Ontario courts have held that engagement rings are indeed conditional gifts. Under this view, an engagement ring would fall under section 33. In such an interpretation, if a judge were asked to determine whether Cole would be entitled to the return of the engagement ring in the event of a pre-wedding breakup, Cole's role in causing the relationship to end should not be a factor to be considered.
However, there are other cases where, despite being characterized as a "conditional gift", the court did not follow section 33 and instead looked to which party ended the engagement. As such, under this line of cases, if Chelsea ended the engagement, then Cole would be entitled to the return of the diamond ring. Vice versa, if Cole ended the engagement then Chelsea would have the right to keep the ring.
Another approach Ontario courts have taken is to consider the engagement ring an unconditional absolute gift such that it would not matter whether Chelsea or Cole ended the relationship as it is already Chelsea's property regardless.
For Chelsea and Cole, it is far too premature to even speculate who would keep that beautiful ring should the engagement end before their marriage even starts. Ontario law on the issue is also unhelpful given the many possible outcomes. However, case law suggests that the court may consider who ended the engagement and whether the judge characterizes the ring as a condition or absolute gift.