Gifts In Contemplation of Marriage. P.S. v H.R. 2016 BCSC 2071 involves a claim for the return of a gift ( a $17,000 engagement ring) made in contemplation of marriage arising from a whirlwind relationship of three months that abruptly ended due to the plaintiff’s abusive behaviour.
During the brief relationship, the plaintiff was a wealthy man and also paid down the defendant’s mortgage in the amount of $85,000 in November without any prompting by the defendant .
The plaintiff alleged that the gifts were conditional gifts, in contemplation of marriage and should be repaid. The defendant said the gifts were absolute and not conditional and that she is entitled to retain them. The ring was purchased on October 30,2013 and they became engaged on Christmas day that same year.
The defendant later returned the ring to the jewellery store and exchanged it for several pieces of jewellery.
The Court held that the gifts were absolute and that the defendant may keep them as there were several reasons why the plaintiff paid the debts and gave her the ring, and that marriage was probably the least important of the several reasons.
The court found they were not firmly committed to marriage when the debts were paid off , not did the purchase of the ring in October signify a firm commitment to marry.
|The Engagement Ring
 In British Columbia, the law relating to engagement rings is reasonably well-settled.
In Hitchcox v. Harper,  B.C.J. No. 1861, the court pondered competing lines of authority, one which treated engagement rings as absolute gifts not returnable upon a termination of the engagement, and another which treated the gift of an engagement ring as being conditional on marriage and therefore returnable upon the failure of the condition. The court followed the latter line of authority.
 Hitchcox was followed in Sperling v. Grouwstra, 2004 BCSC 330 [Sperling] and Zimmerman v. Lazare, 2007 BCSC 626 [Zimmerman]. For this reason I consider the law on this point to be settled in this jurisdiction.
[71 ] Fault for the termination of the engagement does not enter into the analysis: Sperling, at para. 24, and Zimmerman, at para. 9. Parenthetically, I note that in other jurisdictions the issue has been dealt with by way of legislation, such that fault for a termination of an engagement is not relevant there either: Manitoba – Equality of Status Act, C.C.S.M., c. E130, s. 5; Ontario – Marriage Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. M.3, s. 33; and Alberta – Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5, s. 102.
 The general approach in British Columbia to the question of the return of engagement rings, which I have described above, is still subject to evidence of a contrary intention on the part of the donor. This is the real issue here because Ms. R. maintains that Mr. S. gave her the engagement ring as an absolute gift at their final meeting.
 For his part, Mr. S. emphasizes that the onus is on the recipient to prove the transferor intended the transfer to be a gift and that the evidence of gift must be very clear, citing Bath v. Bath, 2002 NLCA 21 [Bath] and Veitch v. Rankin,  O.J. No. 4642 (Ont. C.J.) [Veitch].
GIFTS IN CONTMEPLATION OF MARRIAGE