During meiosis, each pair of homologous chromosomes typically undergoes at least one crossover (crossover assurance), but these exchanges are strictly limited in number and widely spaced along chromosomes (crossover interference). The molecular basis for this chromosome-wide regulation remains mysterious. A family of meiotic RING finger proteins has been implicated in crossover regulation across eukaryotes. Caenorhabditis elegans expresses four such proteins, of which one (ZHP-3) is known to be required for crossovers. Here we investigate the functions of ZHP-1, ZHP-2, and ZHP-4. We find that all four ZHP proteins, like their homologs in other species, localize to the synaptonemal complex, an unusual, liquid crystalline compartment that assembles between paired homologs. Together they promote accumulation of pro-crossover factors, including ZHP-3 and ZHP-4, at a single recombination intermediate, thereby patterning exchanges along paired chromosomes. These proteins also act at the top of a hierarchical, symmetry-breaking process that enables crossovers to direct accurate chromosome segregation.