3 Questions for What to Do With the Ring in Divorce

July 21, 2020

When you’re going through a divorce, the symbol of commitment your rings have may become a source of emotional pain. And yet, you must now go through the tactical motions of splitting everything up. So, what do you do with that ring? The answer is…it depends. Asking yourself three questions can help clarify your decision and give you greater comfort that you’re balancing the financial and emotional factors appropriately.

Question 1: Is it really your decision to make?

The law may have a big say in whether you get to decide on what to do with your ring.

If the ring is a family heirloom and has been in the groom’s family for generations, its disposition may be decided according to how inheritances are handled. Almost all states view inheritances as separate from marital assets. In such a case, a court may be inclined to return the ring to the groom’s family.

Therefore, if you got great-grandma’s beautiful (and valuable) engagement ring, are you just out of luck? Not necessarily. While you may not get the actual ring, you may still have a claim to its apportioned value. How that happens depends on your state’s laws.

The other factor in whether it’s your decision to make is whether the ring is considered marital or separate property. This (again!) depends on the state you live in.

Step one is to check what rules apply in your state.

Question 2: How important is its value to your finances?

Simple rule of thumb – the higher the financial importance of the ring to your overall money picture, the more you should lean towards a prudent decision, such as selling or otherwise ensuring you get to keep its value by repurposing it.

Question 3: What will best balance your emotional and financial needs, and put you in the best possible place to start your next chapter?

If your ring is valuable and important to your post-divorce financial life, but the emotional cost of keeping it is too high, consider disposing of the ring in a way that allows you to heal and retain its value. You could repurpose it into another piece symbolizing your new approach to life, or gift it to a family member.

Only you can know your situation best – balance the emotional and financial factors carefully before you decide.

Now that you’ve made your decision, how do you turn it into reality?

Selling the Ring

If you decide to sell your ring, be savvy and get the most value out of the exchange.

  • Reputable jewelry dealers such as Hamilton York Estate Buyers and auction houses such as Hindman or Worthy will likely give you the highest value for your ring. They make it easy, are safer, and have an edge over other sites like eBay or Craigslist because of their expertise in dealing with rings.
  • Be cautious of selling to your local jeweler or consignment shop. While they may offer immediate cash, they typically give you a lower price.
  • Don’t rely on an appraisal or retail value as an indicator of what you may get. This value may have little resemblance to what you can realistically expect to get in a sale.

Using the Proceeds Wisely

Selling the ring is only the first step, the next decision is how do you use that money?

  • Have fun! If the money isn’t going to make or break you, consider throwing a party to celebrate the start of your new life. Go on that long-desired vacation. Turn negativity into a smile and happy memories!
  • Pay it Forward – Want to transform your pain into hope and promise for others? Think about donating the proceeds to a cause that’s close to your heart.
  • Invest in Yourself and Your Future – Let the proceeds seed a better and brighter financial future. Use it to go back to school or start a business. Consider a retirement account like an IRA or investing in a college fund for your children.

It’s never too early to start building a better future. What could be a better way to start your next chapter than by transforming a negative into a seed of hope and promise?

Jenny Chung, CFP® is a Wealth Manager at BDF. She uses her background as a teacher to help individuals and families understand their investments and financial plans. She also works on the firm’s Divorce Practice Group which helps divorcing individuals navigate through the process. Jenny earned a master’s degree from the University of Illinois and has over 20 years of experience working in financial services.