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After a divorce, what happens to the ring?

In American culture, many married women received an engagement ring as part of the proposal for marriage. For some, it’s an heirloom piece of jewelry that has been passed down through generations. Others purchased a ring brand new. Either way, it is a symbol of the relationship.

Whatever the source of the ring, when a marriage ends, there is often a question of what to do with it. For some people, this answer is very cut-and-dry, but others struggle with the matter. If you’re going through a divorce here in New York, you may have wondered about this yourself. Experts have some helpful advice that can help you determine what to do. 

What does the law say?

Although laws vary by state, New York typically considers engagement rings marital property. That means that the ring could be subject to equitable distribution laws, and it or its value may be part of marital assets divided between spouses. However, some courts in New York may consider a ring separate property, therefore, belonging to the spouse who received the ring. In that event, the ring or its value may not be part of equitable distribution.

If the ring is an inherited piece, the spouse who received it may not get to keep it. If the ring belonged to the groom’s family, the court could consider it an inheritance. That would make it separate property instead of marital property, and the wife may have to return it to the family.

What do your finances say?

For some people, the value of the ring is high enough that selling it or reusing it makes the most financial sense. This may only be true, however, if there isn’t too much of a negative association to the ring. Even so, experts do not recommend destroying or discarding the ring. They say that doing something with it that still retains its value is probably the best choice.

If you want to sell your engagement ring, experts say to consult a respected jewelry dealer because some local jewelers and online sites may not give you the full value you should receive. Also, you should consider that you may not be able to sell the ring for the exact appraisal value because those values take insurance premiums into consideration.

What does your heart say?

If you end up selling the ring and you end up receiving the money from that sale, there are several options for spending the money if you are able to use it as discretionary income. Some people decide to throw a party to celebrate their divorce or go on vacation. Others feel better about donating the money to charity. Some put it towards bettering their future by investing in a new career or a college fund for their children. Whatever you decide, it should help you move forward.

These questions may be difficult to answer, and every case is unique. Working with a family law attorney may be the best way to handle divorce. No matter what happens to the ring, this can be the start of your new life.