Citizens Advice Bureau Jersey

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Breach of promise

Extent: Jersey
March 1996
Updated 16 May 2019



In the past, if someone asked you to marry them but then changed their mind, you could take them to court for damages saying that they had " breached their promise" to you.

When someone asks you to marry them, you become engaged. This is usually celebrated by the female being given a ring to signify the engagement but sometimes couples now exchange rings. Sometimes couples exchange “ commitment” rings.

It is now thought that relationships are such that when they break down there should be no legal right to sue.

The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Jersey) Law 2003 came into force on 10 January 2003 which ended the common law right to take legal action for breach of promise. It also says what should happen to any gifts, given by the partners to each other, when the marriage is no longer going to take place.

Return of gifts

If a gift such as a car, jewellery, clothes etc. is given by one person to the other person they are going to marry, the gift will usually be kept by them if the engagement breaks off.

If however the gifts are given on the basis they will be returned if the marriage does go ahead, then they must be given back. It must be clear when the gifts are given that that is what is expected.

That is not the case with the engagement ring which is thought to be an outright gift which does not have to be given back unless it was given on the clear understanding that if the marriage did not go ahead it had to be returned.

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