Divorcing? Before You Sell Your Engagement Ring And Wedding Band, Read This

Posted on: 8 April 2016


If you're going through a divorce, you may not exactly enjoy looking at your engagement ring and wedding band right now. You probably don't feel much like wearing them either. The emotional symbolism of the rings may have changed for you, and they certainly send a message (you're in a committed relationship) that's no longer true. If money's tight, you may be especially tempted to just sell the rings and be done with them. Hold up. Making a move like that before your divorce is final may not be a wise decision. Consider these questions before you head to the pawn shop with your rings.

Does the law allow you to keep it?

The laws around the U.S. are anything but clear when it comes to engagement and wedding rings. Your entitlement to the rings, even if you've been married a while, may depend on the exact circumstances surrounding how they were obtained, what's happened since then, and the laws in your state. In many states, the engagement ring and wedding bands are considered gifts and they belong to the recipient. In other states, they're considered conditional gifts—subject to return if the condition fails. If the ink was barely dry on the wedding certificate when the marriage fell apart, your spouse may argue that there was deception involved (especially if there was infidelity on your part) and say that he or she is entitled to the return of the ring.

Even if you've been married for a long time, it's not out of reason to think that your spouse may argue that the upgraded diamond set that you received for your fifth anniversary was still a conditional gift—the condition being that you stayed married. 

Is there likely to be a fight about it?

Another thing to consider before you trade in your rings for cash is whether or not there's likely to be a fight over it. If the rings are more sentimental than valuable, then they may not really be worth enough to bother fighting about during the divorce. For example, if your engagement ring is a holdover from the days long before you and your spouse were established in your careers and making substantial incomes, it might be worth only a few hundred dollars. No one may really be concerned about what happens to it.

On the other hand, if your rings are exceptional and worth several thousand dollars (or more), you can probably anticipate that it will be listed as an asset in the divorce and something that will come up in the future. It could be problematic to have to admit to the judge that you sold the rings before the assets had been properly divided. You're also likely to see a fight about any rings that are family heirlooms—and the judge could easily decide that a ring should stay in its family of origin. It's definitely worth the time to check with your attorney to see what kind of problems you could face if you decide to sell your rings before you take that step.

Could you use it as a bargaining chip?

Even if your attorney tells you that the state laws are firmly on your side and the rings are yours to do with as you please, you may still want to hold back. Because engagement rings and wedding rings do often hold significant emotional value for everyone involved, you don't know what your spouse may be willing to trade for them. If the rings have any potential financial or emotional value, you could trade your spouse for something equal to their full worth—which is more than you'll receive by reselling them. Most jewelry buyers who deal in engagement rings will offer you less than wholesale value for your rings. That may be a lot less than you're expecting and definitely a lot less than your rings are likely valued. For example, if your engagement ring is appraised at $10,000 for insurance purposes, you can still only expect to get $2,500-$3,000 when you resell it.

Instead of trading your rings now for quick cash that's far less than what you paid for them, consider keeping them on the table as a bargaining chip and see if you can negotiate a trade that's closer to their appraised value. You spouse may be willing to trade for something less emotionally significant, like stocks or property.

Don't make any rash decisions regarding your engagement and wedding rings while the divorce is pending. You could be opening the door to unnecessary legal headaches and ruining a chance to use them in a way that will benefit you more than a quick trip to a pawn shop ever could. For more information, contact Blumenauer Hackworth or a similar firm.