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In Case of Divorce, What Happens to the Vehicle? A used Car Dealer’s Perspective.

Posted by Shabana Motors - 21 February, 2020



Even if after trying really hard, you and your spouse have decided to part ways. One of the most challenging phases of one’s life is to let go of someone you thought was meant for you and was your ‘happily ever after’ companion. Similarly, when you purchase a car, you never think about what will happen to it if you and your spouse get divorced.

Does that mean you have to bid goodbye to the car you bought with so much hard work, love and affection? Well, it is a question hundreds of people ponder upon because a vehicle is a valuable asset. A car is the second most valuable asset a person can own; the first one is, of course, a house. It is not easy to give up something you dearly love. Divorce is a tough phase, and when you have to give up your car, things can get worse for you.

So, what happens to your vehicle during a divorce? Do you get to keep it, or does it fall under your spouse’s assets?

When you saw the love of your life walking down the aisle, you never imagined that the day could come to say goodbye. The decision to part with that special person you thought was meant to live with you ‘happily ever after’ is one of the hardest to make. But, alas, here we are. Going through a divorce is stressful enough emotionally, but there are other practical issues you have to deal with.

For instance, what happens to the car you purchased together with so much love and effort? That is one of the things people rarely think of until they are confronted with the situation. Do you also have to say goodbye to the car that means so much to you?

This is a question people have to consider while going through divorce proceedings. A car is a valuable asset. Even if it seems like just a material thing, it is not easy to give up something that you come to depend on. In fact, legally, your car has the same weight as your home, and if you are in it, not even a policeman can reach inside without a search warrant. So, in a way, your car is also an extension of your house, and, naturally, you should feel distressed at the thought of parting with it.

So, what happens to the family vehicle during a divorce?

Here are some of the possible ways in which allocating the ownership, or value, of a car, can be achieved while a couple gets divorced.



1.-Community Property State

In the Community Property State, all marital assets are divided 50-50. In States that fall under this category, such as California, Texas, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Washington, Idaho, and Louisiana, a judge divides all marital property equally between the spouses. Any property that was bought during the marriage period is considered marital or community property.

2.-Equitable Distribution State

Equitable distribution is the distribution of property and debt obligations used by courts in most states when dividing marital property during divorce proceedings. Equitable distribution does not mean “equal” division – it means “fair” division.

Essential Factors to Consider

The judge in the divorce case will have to take into account several factors before deciding which of the spouses has the right to keep the car; or whether the amount of money obtained if they sell it can be equally divided. For instance:

Is the Car Marital Property or Not?

The first factor a judge will look into is whether a car is marital or separate property. If the couple bought the car while they were married, the money would be divided between the spouses equally. Even if the car is titled to one spouse and the other spouse also contributed money to purchase it, the vehicle will fall under the category of community property. However, if one of the parties in dispute received the car as a present, or as an inheritance, the auto will be considered separate property.


Buying Out the Spouse

If you are keen on keeping the car, you can always offer to buy it from your spouse. The exact amount you would have to pay includes the actual value of the vehicle, including the debts or reimbursements associated with it. All of this will be determined by the judge. On the other hand, you may, instead of paying with money, exchange the car for any other asset you may own of equal value.

Refinancing the Car

Another situation that often occurs is when there is an outstanding amount that still needs to be paid before you can legally own the car. In this case, the judge will ask the keeper of the car to refinance the note. Once the interested spouse refinances the vehicle, he/she will receive a lien of release letter. Having that document in hand, the Department of Motor Vehicles will remove the name of the other spouse from the car´s title.

Filing a Court Order

If there is no agreement between you and your spouse about who should keep the car (that is under your two names), both of you will have to file a court order. You will need to prove why it is you who deserves to keep the car. Among the reasons that could help your case, you can include your commuting needs and any other genuine reason for which you must keep the car in your name. For instance, you depend on your vehicle for work, and without it, you are not going to be able to pay for alimony.

Selling the Car

Finally, if there is an outstanding amount that needs to be paid before getting full ownership of the car, and neither spouse has the financial means to honor the auto loan, selling it is the best option; it will be easier to simply split the money you get from the sale (if any) with your spouse after you pay de debt you owe.

These are some possible ways in which allocating the ownership or value of a vehicle can be decided upon while a couple in case of divorce.

We know how difficult it is to let go of a car, which sometimes feels—and could be legally considered-- an extension of your own home. Still, sometimes things do not turn out exactly as we plan them. Worrying about a car in the middle of a divorce, making the monthly payments, and letting go of “the love of your life” all happening at the same time can be very challenging. We hope this article helped provide at least some guidance, if not relief.

Used car dealerships like Shabana Motors located at 9811 SW Freeway in Houston, offers in-house financing and will also buy your car and will warranty your car for 2 years/24K miles, when passing Shabana Motors 5-star inspection process.


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