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What To Do With The Ring In Divorce? Three Questions To Help Decide The Surprisingly Complex Answer

Mar 09, 2020

Engagement rings and wedding bands are often significant investments, not to mention the emotional attachment they may have as well as the pain they can invoke after a divorce.  So, the question becomes, what happens or what do you do with the rings?  The choices people make can vary tremendously, just like the differences between couples in divorce are varied.  They span the spectrum of practicality to cathartic. 

The first question actually is, who legally has the right to make the decision?  Most people don’t understand the legal ramifications of divorce and what constitutes separate or marital property.  Technically, the engagement ring is a gift before marriage and therefore is separate property and is the sole property of the person receiving it.  The wedding rings however, are marital property.  This may vary from state to state, but that is how it is in New York.  What happens if one of the rings was a family heirloom?  That can also raise additional problems and questions.  In the case of an heirloom for an engagement ring, typically the engagement ring is owned by the person it was given to as separate property.  But, if it was an heirloom, it is possible that you can make a deal that the person gets the approximate value of that ring in exchange for returning it to the family inheritance. 

Another significant issue is whether there are children of the marriage.  If there are children of the marriage, there may be strong feelings on gifting one or more of these rings to the children so that they may use it in the future and the rings stay within the family.  This also may be impacted by the financial reality of how much the rings are worth.  If finances are of importance, the financial value of the ring could come into play and a more financially prudent decision may be necessary, such as selling the ring or insuring you will get its value by repurposing it into a necklace or pendant, for example. 

It is important to make the best choice that balances your emotional and financial needs and enables you to move forward in the best possible way to start the next chapter of your life.  If the emotional toll of keeping the ring is too high, repurposing it or giving it to a family member may be the way to go.  You need to dispose of the ring in a way that allows you to move forward and heal.  Although not necessarily a wise decision, some people feel so strongly that they physically have to get rid of it by throwing it away. 

If you decide to sell the ring, make sure you do it in an appropriate way that you maximize its worth by dealing with a reputable jeweler and getting opinions from more than one.  Be aware that an appraisal value is not an indicator of the true value of the ring.  It is utilized for insurance purposes for replacement value, but is not what you can sell it for to a retail or other jeweler.  They will not buy it for premium cost.  A good rule of thumb is that an appraisal is probably anywhere from 10% to 30% higher than the rings purchase price.  It is made to protect the insurer and not to insure that you get a high price. 

This article offers a real life example of how drastic this can be. According to this article, Mariah Carey got a 35 carat diamond ring, which cost the suitor $13 million and was appraised for $66 million, but when she decided to sell it, she only received $2.7 million.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Heather L. Locus, Contributor, Personal Finance, Forbes.