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Bitter $101k dispute after Aussies split reveals answer to common break-up question

Engagement rings can be a huge investment, and when relationships break down - a source of anguish over who gets what.

The break up of a Melbourne couple has turned into a bitter court dispute as the pair battle it out over gifts they gave each other when they were still together. Constantinos Hatzis has demanded Anastasia Soulios return the 18-carat white-gold diamond engagement ring he gave her in 2022.

The Victorian builder has also demanded $101,035 in loss and damages, and "lost ability to resell the goods", along with a gifted pair of diamond solitaire earrings and a diamond tennis bracelet. But Soulios has argued those were given months before their failed six-month engagement.

"I did think it was a gift, yeah. And I did gift him a watch as well, which he's still got, as an engagement gift," she told A Current Affair. "There was no offer of him returning his engagement gift."

Insert of Constantinos Hatzis and Anastasia Soulios next to engagement ring
Constantinos Hatzis is suing his ex-fiancée, Anastasia Soulios, because he wants the engagement ring he gave her in 2022 back. (Source: A Current Affair)

Have you ended up in a financial dispute after a break-up? Contact stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

Soulios said spent close to $20,000 on the watch, a birthday trip, Tom Ford sunglasses, Calibre clothing and a New Year's Eve party at a ritzy Melbourne restaurant to celebrate their engagement.

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Soulios is happy to return the engagement ring because she said she never wears it, but has stood firm that the bracelet and earrings are hers to keep.

She's launched a counter lawsuit to get payment for the $9,500 TAG Heuer watch she gave him, but it opens up the question; who does an engagement ring belong to after a break-up?

There's always going to be personal context that plays into a broken engagement. It's a personal and emotional case.

Lawyer Justin Lawrence told A Current Affair Soulios was not legally obliged to give the ring back if the court was satisfied it was given to her as a gift "in the true meaning of a gift".

"If it's a conditional gift, then she has to give it back, but it would take a lot of evidence and persuasive argument to convince the court that the giving of an engagement ring is a conditional gift," he said.

But, Bateman Battersby Lawyers said the law is pretty clear when it comes to engagement rings.

It will often depend on what kind of relationship you're in, and how far you got into the marriage.

There are three situations to consider when deciding who gets to keep the ring if the relationship goes south:

  • Traditional: Couples that get engaged but don't live together before they get married

  • De Facto: Couples that live together before they get engaged but don't marry

  • Married: Couples that get engaged, live together and then get married

Under a traditional setting, if a person breaks off an engagement, it can be seen as a breach of a promise to marry, Bateman Battersby Lawyers said.

"Whilst under the Marriage Act, a person can no longer sue for damages linked to social or economic loss arising out of a breach of a promise to marry, this doesn’t apply to gifts, like an engagement ring, given in anticipation of a marriage," the legal team said.

However, under the other two systems, de facto and married, the Family Law Act kicks into gear.

"The engagement ring is classed as property and is added into the property pool available for distribution between the parties," Bateman Battersby said.

"This means that the question of who is entitled to the engagement ring will depend upon a range of factors including the value of the engagement ring, and the total value of the property pool; the length of the relationship and/or marriage; the financial and non-financial contributions made by each party during the relationship; each party’s future needs as they emerge from the relationship following separation."

The value of the engagement ring, for the purposes of property settlement, is the current second-hand value, rather than what the purchase price is.

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