Who gets the ring after a divorce?

Divorce, Money, Relationships

The end of an engagement is a sad and stressful time. The future you had envisioned is off the table—instead, you’re making new plans and trying to move on. But what about the ring?

When Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries got divorced after their short-lived marriage, Humphries sold the engagement ring at an auction for $749,000. Interestingly enough, Kardashian is reportedly the one who actually bought the ring in the first place, and the disposition of the ring was included in their divorce settlement. Not every couple has a ring worth nearly three-quarters of a million bucks, but most engagement rings are valuable, and deciding what to do with one can be a contentious issue.

Who gets the rock?

Each state has its unique laws about who owns the ring when an engagement ends. In New York, North Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee, and many other states, the ring is considered a conditional gift. It’s given to the wearer as part of the agreement to marry. If the couple decides not to marry, the ring has to be returned to the giver. In Kansas and Montana, meanwhile, the ring is a gift with no strings and is owned by the person it was given to, even if the engagement is broken. And in California, the person who ended the engagement has to allow the other person to keep the ring.

Exceptions to the rules

In some states, if the ring was given for the engagement but also as a gift for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, a birthday, or another occasion, it may be considered a non-returnable gift. Most states don’t alter the law if the ring was a family heirloom in the giver’s family, although it seems as though that should make the recipient of the ring think twice about keeping it.

In fact, according to Joanna Grossman, a professor at Hofstra University School of Law in a CNN interview, “What people do is largely dictated by cultural traditions, and many aren’t aware of what the law requires.” For what it’s worth, etiquette doyenne Emily Post says that a ring should always be returned when an engagement is broken.

How to sell the ring

If you’re left holding the ring at the end of an engagement and want to sell it, you probably hope to get close to what it cost in the first place. First step: research what the diamond is worth. You might want to get it appraised, but be aware that an appraisal is usually for insurance purposes and may not reflect the current going price for a ring like yours. So look at prices for comparable rings and stones to get an idea of actual prices in the current marketplace.

You might consider selling the ring on eBay or to a pawnshop or jeweler. Always check a business’ Better Business Bureau rating if you decide to sell to a store. You’re likely to get more money for your ring if you sell it directly to another person, since a store has to make a profit when they resell a ring they buy from you. However, if you’re in a hurry, a store might be a better option than waiting for right buyer.

Another possibility is selling the ring through a site like I Do Now I Don’t, which provides an online marketplace for sellers and buyers. The ring and the payment are handled through the site, which offers a layer of protection for both parties, but you’ll pay a commission to the site.

Finally, when choosing how to handle the ring, keep in mind that ending an engagement is upsetting not just to you but likely to your former intended as well. Recognizing this, you might consider selling the ring and splitting the proceeds. After all, you both have an emotional investment in that ring, so sharing the financial one as well seems like an equitable solution for both parties.