One thing that can be overlooked when preparing or undergoing a divorce is the question of who keeps the car. This can get especially heated in situations where the couple only owns one vehicle, so we’ve taken the time to field some questions about how divorce affects car ownership.
Q: If the car was purchased after our marriage, who gets to keep it?
A: The car is considered marital property and is subject to equitable division of marital assets.
Q: Can I keep my car if the car is in my spouse’s name?
A: Generally speaking, the name on the title does not determine absolute ownership of the car. It could still be considered marital property, especially if purchased during a marriage. If the car is purchased prior to marriage, there could still be a portion of equity in the car that is marital and subject to division. For these situations, it is wise to speak with a divorce attorney as well as your spouse to determine who gets to keep the car. If working this issue out with your ex is going to be contentious, consider divorce mediation.
Q: If both of our names are on the title, how do I get possession of the car?
A: You are probably going to have to work this one out with your spouse, but if he or she refuses to give up the vehicle, you can ask for a court order to take possession of the vehicle. The court will enter an interim order for exclusive rights to certain property. Once a final order of possession is entered, the party not keeping the car will be ordered to sign over the title.
Q: If my spouse bought me a car as a wedding gift, will I have to give it back to him or her?
A: Gifts can be considered separate property and thus not subject to equitable division. However, even if a car is purchased by one party and given to the other party, it can still be considered a marital asset subject to division. Gifts from one spouse to the other during a marriage cannot be presumed to be gifts. There must be an intention and acceptance of the gift as separate property.
Q: We shared a car during our marriage, and I still have a spare key. Is it legal for me to go and take the car?
A: It’s a bad idea. Aside from the legal implications of such an act, especially if your name is not on the title for the car, this could lead to animosity between you and your ex, which is something that you do not need more of during a divorce. If your name is on the title, then you do have an ownership interest; however, it is still best to discuss the car with a divorce attorney rather than taking the car outright. If the court has already given exclusive right to the car to one spouse, the other is not permitted to take the car.
Divorce Matters ”“ Denver Family Law Attorneys