Never write a letter while you are angry.
A decision to get married has financial consequences.
A decision to get married has financial consequences, but a decision to break-up even more so. And although we all know that good financial management requires good, clear thinking, break-ups make that really difficult to do.
Break-ups are emotional. They are almost never planned or anticipated well in advance. And emotional + unplanned = a heap of rash decision-making.
The exchanged ring, despite its concrete value (and the question of who is legally entitled to it after a break-up), bears far more emotional currency than most other considerations--like its monetary value, for example. But soon that emotional weight will dry up, and your mind will turn to questions of fairness, and if you fail to walk away with what you believe you are entitled to, that is a mistake that you can actually measure in dollars.
Who gets the wedding ring after a divorce?
One divorced man, whom we will call "Jared," talked to me about those moments right before and after his (now ex-) wife left:
"My biggest memory was not really realizing it was actually happening until it happened and she was gone."
He said his friends came over that day to help move things out of their apartment and into his wife's vehicle. And then when she actually got into her vehicle and drove away, he climbed in his friend's backseat and just started to cry.
"There was this feeling...hope, I guess...that maybe this wasn't the end. I thought about the ring. And honestly, I liked the idea of her having it still and having to look at it everyday and be reminded of me. I guess I thought that she would eventually bring it up, but she never did."
That was several years ago. "What happened to the ring you gave her?" He never got it back, and in fact, he did not even ask for it.
"I didn't care: it was only a grand."
But when I asked him what he thought should have happened to the ring, he was clear: she should have given it back.
Each state gives it a slightly different treatment
The three most common questions courts seem to ask in these situations are:
- Was the ring a gift?
- Was it given "conditionally," meaning on the condition of the expected marriage?
- Whose fault is the break-up?
Of course, consulting state case law is not something most people are likely to do when emotions are high immediately post-break-up. But that is not even the biggest problem.
What is the hardest part about getting your ring back?
Cutting through the emotions to muster some clear thinking? Sure, that is one problem. Having the wherewithal to book a date with Google to consult your state's case law? Sure that is another problem. But the biggest problem is that wedding ring disputes are often in the category of "low-value claims." And low-value claims are usually not worth enough money to warrant hiring an attorney.
...which is why most of the literature Google will give you on this topic is worthless: most of the articles begin or end with the advice, "you should consult an attorney."
If you are Kanye West and you gave Kim a two-pound ring of solid blood diamonds, then yea, maybe you take that advice...because your potential payoff if worth the upfront expense of a few thousand dollars to buy an attorney's time and help.
But for most people--people like Jared--the economics do not make sense.
How to get your ring back from your ex (wife or fiancé).
On the other hand, if Jared is a Veeto member, then his cost "veeto" this issue--to get the ring back from his ex--is about $40.
Would Jared take that deal? I asked him.