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Australians who ‘like it’ are willing to put a $3,311 engagement ring on it, according to new research

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New research by Slater and Gordon has revealed the average Australian would spend $3,311 on an engagement ring, but family lawyers are warning expensive rings do not always buy happiness.

Australians who ‘like it’ are willing to put a $3,311 engagement ring on it, according to a survey of 1,000 people commissioned by Slater and Gordon Family Lawyers.

Key findings of the research:

  • Almost half (48 per cent) of Australians think the cost of the engagement ring doesn’t matter.
  • The other half thought $3,311 was the right amount to spend, on average.
    • Men were willing to spend $376 more than women on average ($3,487 for men, compared to $3,111 for women).
    • Men (40 per cent) were also much less likely to say the cost of the ring doesn’t matter, compared to women (55 per cent).
  • NSW was the most materialistic state, with the lowest proportion of respondents who said the cost of the ring doesn’t matter (45 per cent).
    • However, Victorians who believed the cost of the ring was important had the highest expectations, with $4,046 the average acceptable price.
    • Western Australians had the highest proportion say the cost of the engagement ring doesn’t matter (54 per cent).
    • Queenslanders had the lowest average expectations for the cost of the ring ($2,249).
  • 25-34 year olds had the highest expectations when it came to the cost of an engagement ring ($4,569), while the over 55s were the least materialistic ($2,358).

Be careful: a more expensive ring does not necessarily buy happiness

Slater and Gordon Family Lawyer Mona Emera said you only have to look at celebrity couples to see that an expensive ring does not always buy happiness.

“If James Packer had been part of our survey, there’s no doubt the $10 million, 35-carat diamond he bought Mariah Carey would have thrown off our results,” Ms Emera said.

“But the average Australian couple can take comfort in the fact that even a $10 million ring doesn’t safeguard against relationship breakdown.

“In our experience, the relationships that are built on solid foundations are the ones that go the distance. There’s a reason ‘for richer or poorer’ is included in traditional marriage vows.”

Who gets to keep the engagement ring if a couple breaks up?

Ms Emera said the law around engagement rings would either be governed by contract or family law, depending on the circumstances.

  • Contract law: The act of giving an engagement ring could be seen as nothing more than a transaction where the ring symbolises a deposit for fulfilment of a contract, where fulfilment is walking down the aisle - and they say that romance is dead.
    • However, the recipient of the ring can raise a plea of ‘legal justification’ for refusing to carry out the promise of marriage.
    • They would need to show there was ‘repudiatory’ conduct on the ring-giver’s part, such as violence or an affair. In those circumstances, it would be possible to keep the ring.
  • Family law: A distinction would be made for de facto couples who cohabitate before becoming engaged and who both make significant contributions to their assets.
    • In modern circumstances couples build a life together before getting married, so an engagement ring may be treated as merely one part of their pool of assets.
    • Alternatively, the ring may be excluded from a property settlement altogether due to its sentimental value.

Engagement rings and the law

  1. If a woman who has received a ring in contemplation of marriage refuses to fulfil the conditions of the gift, she must return the ring;
  2. If a man refuses to carry out his promise of marriage, without legal justification, he cannot demand the return of the ring;
  3. It is irrelevant whether the denial of the promise turns out to benefit both parties;
  4. If the engagement is ended by mutual consent, then in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the engagement ring and similar gifts must be returned by each party to the other.