Wedding and engagement rings are meant to be promises for a faithful, forever marriage.
However, life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and not all marriages work out. Once the marriage is over, many divorcees are unsure of what to do with their ring.
After a divorce, it is important to check the laws of each state to see who legally owns the ring. Once ownership has been determined, then the owner of the ring can do anything they want with it—sell it, stick it in a drawer, give it away, melt it down and make something new, etc.
Still, it’s best to make that decision once you’ve done your research. Here are a few of your options.
In most states, the ring belongs to the wearer.
Since marriage is, legally, a condition to be met, the ring is considered property of the person it was given to the moment the two parties tie the knot.
In a divorce, the wedding ring is usually seen as separate property.
Separate property is property that a spouse owned alone before the marriage, or acquired as a gift or via inheritance during the marriage.
As long as the spouse claiming the property can prove it with proper documentation, it cannot be taken from that spouse during the divorce.
Since the ring was a gift, it cannot be taken back.
However, some states require the exact opposite. By law, the spouse is required to return the ring to whoever originally purchased it.
Before your divorce, be sure you know which law applies to your state to prevent yourself from losing what is legally your property.
If the engagement is called off before the couple gets married, most divorce courts will look to see who is at fault for the split.
If a spouse cheats, and the infidelity ends the engagement, the ring belongs to the other party.
A few courts will decide that fault doesn’t matter; if the conditions of marriage are not fulfilled, the ring is returned to the giver even if they are the reason the engagement was called off.
In some cases, you and your ex may decide to operate outside of the court.
You’ll both know and understand your unique situation and be able to decide on who gets the ring.
Still, a lawyer should be included in this decision to make sure it’s legal and binding in case someone changes their mind later.
Both marriage and divorce are emotionally charged events. Parting with your ring can bring a lot of hard-to-handle emotions to the surface.
It may be the last physical reminder of the married life you had.
If you’re not ready to let go, keep the ring. It may take time for you to come to terms with the emotions your ring brings up.
Tuck it away for a while until you’re ready to face it and find a solution.
Some people choose to pass the ring down to their children.
Others keep it just long enough to get rid of it—throwing it into the sea, or the woods, burying it in the garden—anything to get rid of it.
While these dramatic, almost cinematic gestures may seem like wonderful solutions in the heat of the moment, they might be a waste you’ll regret later.
There are better, more profitable solutions, but you can do whatever you need to in order to get closure.
Divorce can be expensive between lawyers and time spent in court.
Starting a new chapter of your life can be expensive, too—you may need to replace items lost in the divorce. You may need to find a new place to live.
You may not know how much your ex spent on your ring but you can get it appraised and ask for a quote of the selling price.
However, it’s important to realize that resale value will not be anywhere close to what it originally cost.
You won’t be able to recover the entire amount spent on the ring, but you can still get a good price for it, especially if you sell it to the right buyer.
A jewelry store is likely to offer you a cheap price—pawnshop prices are even worse.
Try selling your ring directly to a consumer. However, this comes with some risk as you might not receive reliable payment.
Selling online, through places like Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace will not give you market price.
But selling online might still be your best bet if you sell with online vendors such as White Pine, Worthy, and especially Abe Mor.
Most divorcees choose to sell their ring, whether that be to help pay for legal bills, or for a bit of extra cash to help them start a new life.
If you’re unwilling to use the cash, consider donating it to a worthy charity.
Your ring may have stood for an unfortunate time in your life, but it can bring hope to someone else.
A Bargaining Chip
Although you can choose what to do, many divorce lawyers will advise you not to sell the ring until all the marital property is divided.
In a messy divorce, a ring can be used as a bargaining chip.
Whether because of sentiment or monetary reasons, your ex-spouse may be willing to make a deal with you to get the ring back.
Keep your cards close to your chest—once all the property has been split and the ordeal is over, you can choose what to do.
In recent years, it’s become popular for divorcees to repurpose their rings.
The metal and gems may be valuable, and jewelers can easily change your ring into another form, like earrings or a necklace.
This process may be therapeutic to some divorcees because it’s a way of taking control of their lives after the trauma of separation from their spouse.
You’re literally making something new from a bad memory.
In some cases, a spouse may give their significant other an heirloom ring.
If the ring has a lot of significance to your partner’s family, make sure there is a provision for it in the pre-nuptial agreement.
If there’s no prenup, the ring is technically a gift, and most likely legally belongs to whoever wore it during the wedding ceremony.
At this point, it’s up to the legal owner to decide to return it or not.
However, exceptions may apply to this rule. As we’ve previously stated, marriage is a condition to be met.
In the case of a marriage with an heirloom ring, the condition may be altered to add that you join the family.
Because this condition was not met, the ring must be returned to the family.
Although there are very few established rules for what to do during a divorce, it’s considered common courtesy for whoever received the ring to give it back, as they are no longer part of the family.
At the very least, ask if the family would like the ring back.
Again, if the divorce gets messy, you can use an heirloom ring as a bargaining chip.
Due to the familial importance, it’s likely your ex will be willing to agree to make a deal as long as the ring is returned.