Who Gets the Car After Divorce?

Cars hold a special place in our hearts, and they are the most valuable acquisitions that we make other than investing in property. And just like any other property or asset, car ownership can bring up many issues for divorcing couples. Therefore, the big question is; Who gets the car after divorce?

Well, while this may seem like a simple question, the answer will surely depend on a variety of factors but basically defined by two laws which are:

  • Common law property  
  • Community property law

It is normal to wonder: ‘who gets what?’ regardless of the situations leading up to a divorce. However, it is essential to note that different states have different laws regarding car ownership between spouses. For example, in California, cars purchased during marriage are considered to be owned by both partners. 

And so, to get a clear view of the entire matter, let’s start by first knowing whether a car is considered an asset during divorce. 

Is a Car an Asset in Divorce?

Yes, it is. And just like any other asset division, it will be ‘shared’ equally if you both own it. But if you are the sole owner of the car, then you will exclusively have it during divorce settlement. 

Who Owns the Car in a Marriage?

Common-Law and Community Property are two law systems that help define the ownership of properties in a marriage.  

The common law States

When it comes to determining the ownership of marital properties in America, most states use the principles of Common Law. 

Therefore, common law states that “any property acquired by one member of a married couple is owned completely and solely by that person. But, if the title or deed is put in the names of both spouses, that property would belong to both, equally.”

So, literally, if you buy a car and put it under both you and your spouse’s name, then that car is equally owned. However, if you just put it under your name alone, then that is solely your car.

Community Property States

When it comes to the Community Property States, things are different. These states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin, and Washington.

For these states, assets acquired during the marriage are considered community property, meaning owned by both partners. However, there are a few exceptions though. For example, assets gifted to one partner during or before marriage and assets owned by one partner before marriage remain separate property. This means one person only owns it

Let’s put this into perspective, shall we? 

So, let’s say you have worked for almost 5 or more years and have saved up some of your salaries to buy a car. Once you buy that car, even though you used your own salary, the car will be considered community property.

Note: Community property is also known as marital property

What Happens to My Car if I Get Divorced?

In a divorce who gets the car can be easy or complex to determine. 

Basically, if you bought a car before marriage, it under your name alone, and live in a common-law state, then the car is entirely yours. However, what if the car belongs to both of you? What really happens?

Well, if that’s the case, then here are a few options for you:

First, are you on friendly enough terms with your ex? If yes, then it will be ideal to draft a property settlement agreement with your ex. It can be keeping the car in exchange for other assets or maybe remaining payments still owed for the car. If you aren’t on amicable enough terms with your ex and battling over the car, then the judge might ask one of you to buy the ownership interest of the other party.

When a Judge Decides Who Gets the Family Vehicle

A judge a can decide who gets the car or needs the car more based on the following factors or reasons:

  • Exclusive use: You have been the sole user of that car throughout your marriage. Additionally, if you have used it a majority of times than your ex, then you plead your case; why you should take the car.
  • Multiple Vehicles: If you both owned multiple cars with your ex, then a judge will have to ensure there is equity in what each spouse takes. If one car is much more expensive and in better hope than the other car, then the one that will take the expensive car will have to compensate the other spouse. This is aimed at ensuring equity share of marital property. 
  • When needs the car more? This is a final point that judges usually consider when addressing this kind of case. So, in general, a partner with more need for the car will be given a chance to have the vehicle. For example, a custodian parent or someone who travels for work.

Who is Going to Insure, Tax and Maintain the Vehicle?

Besides knowing who gets the car after divorce, keeping the car maintained, taxed, and insured are some of the other factors you should consider. 

Since there will still be payments to made even after losing the car to your ex, it will be important that you cancel some of these payments. Agreeing on all these payments before completing a car ownership transfer is essential to avoid unnecessary costs.  

Also, you should agree on car maintenance responsibilities since the car will need regular maintenance to keep it in good shape.

Generally, whoever takes full custody of the car takes all these responsibilities, but ensure you discuss them to avoid future disagreements.

Final Thoughts

So, can your spouse take your vehicle? Well, the answer is both NO and Yes. 

As noted above, your spouse can take your car if they have sole ownership of that car or you live in a community property law state. However, if you live in a common-law state, then the chances of your spouse taking your car are limited. 

A divorce settlement is quite hard, and settling it in an amicable way possible can be stressful at times. In some instances, determining who gets the car after a divorce is not possible, and the only way will be to sell it and share the money equally. And so, if you reside in Colorado, then you might want to check out the Colorado bill of sale for car to be fully acquainted. This will help you find a better way to find the value of the car and how to sell it.

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