Three Questions to Help You Decide What to Do with the Rings After Divorce


It can be an uncomfortable subject – what to do with the physical rings that once symbolized the love shared by two people. But after a divorce, what was once cherished can turn into something that you may not want to have in your house anymore. The decision of what to do with your rings can be a tough one. Fortunately, personal finance contributor for Forbes, Heather L. Locus put together three questions to ask yourself that can help clarify your decision and give you greater comfort that you’re balancing financial and emotional factors appropriately:

Question 1: Is it really your decision to make?

This is not a rhetorical question. The law may have a big say in whether you even get to decide on what to do with your ring. Rules vary by state and are not always clear about what happens to the ring when a couple divorces. While it’s best if you and your spouse decide, there are trends on how courts may rule if you can’t.

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 more inclined to return the ring to the groom’s family.

So, 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. In Illinois and California for example, courts are tending to rule in favor of the ring being separate property. They see the ring as property exchanged in return for a promise to marry. Once the marriage is complete, the promise is then fulfilled and the ring becomes the property of the bride. New York courts tend to rule in a similar fashion.

Other states’ courts on the other hand, consider the ring to be marital property and therefore divide its value in the divorce. And some states also take into consideration who is at-fault when dividing up the marital assets. Step one is to check what rules apply in your particular state and case.

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

Your answer may vary based on both how much money you have or expect to have in total after your divorce is final, as well as how much your ring is worth relative to that total.

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

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

It’s possible your ring is valuable and important to your post-divorce financial life, but that the emotional cost of keeping it in any form is too high to allow you to heal and start a fresh new chapter in a healthy way. If this is the case, consider disposing of the ring in a way that allows you to heal – but ideally so its value is not destroyed. You could repurpose it into another, completely different piece symbolizing your new approach to life. Or gift it to your daughter or other family member.

In extreme cases, people have been known to get rid of it physically to relieve themselves symbolically- by throwing it into the ocean or a bonfire, for example. Only you can know your situation best – balance the emotional and financial factors carefully before you decide.”