Property division in divorce covers everything including the household vehicles. Many spouses have special attachments to their cars or rely on these vehicles for transportation to and from work or school. A car is one of the most expensive purchases that many couples make during their marriages. Determining who gets to keep it is a big decision that can be made easier with legal assistance.

Family law attorneys help divorcing couples determine how their property will be divided. When it comes to the car, things can go in several directions. If one spouse entered the marriage with the vehicle, either owning it outright or making all the loan payments, the car is considered nonmarital property owned by that individual. In most cases, this spouse will get to keep the car after the divorce.

If the car was purchased during the marriage and spouses shared relevant financial responsibility, it is considered marital property in divorce. How it will be handled depends on the state of residence. Most states follow common law property regulations, which specify that if property is in the name of both spouses, each is considered a joint owner. Therefore, if the car title contains both names, the couple or the court will determine who receives it.

Several states follow community property laws, which state that assets acquired during a marriage are community property while assets acquired prior to the union are owned by the individual who acquired them. Therefore, a spouse who purchased a car before getting married would be the owner of the vehicle and permitted to retain it after divorcing. However, if the car was purchased during the union, each spouse is considered a 50 percent owner, even if only one spouse’s money was used to buy the car.

In community property states, nonmarital property can become marital property in divorce. For example, a spouse could transfer the title of his or her car to the other spouse or make that spouse a joint titleholder. However, a spouse may not transfer a whole piece of community property unless the other spouse agrees to this.

Whether the couple lives in a common law or community property state, property division in divorce is not a simple process. Getting legal representation from a family law attorney prevents a spouse from being taken advantage of when property decisions are made. A spouse can walk away with a car brought into the marriage or some money in exchange for the ownership share of a marital vehicle.

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6 thoughts on “Can I Keep My Car When I Get Divorced?”

  1. If a couple owns 2vehicles and they split up they went in together to purchase the 2nd vehicle, the 2nd vehicle is in the wife’s name but she won’t sign the papers over to the husband unless he lets the kids live with her, can he keep the vehicle

  2. I also put down 5k for this car. Now he wants me to pay my own car now, since I am the one using the car. Is that Fair?


    1. Depends on the circumstances, but if you are keeping the vehicle, most courts would require you to make the payments.

  3. before our divorce, my husband bought me a car as a gift. We are paying half and half of the monthly payment. he pays 250 and I pay the balance 315
    I used the car and he lease a car for his own.
    So now that we are divorce, can asked him to pay half of the loan?
    Please advice

    1. If he bought you a car as a gift, it would be your sole property. If the divorce is finalized, there should have been language in the judgment for dissolution and marital settlement agreement stating who keeps what property and who has to pay what amount on specific debts.
      If this vehicle was not included in the judgment for dissolution, or if the divorce is not finalized yet and the process is still ongoing, there should be language ordered by the court as to who keeps it and who pays for it. If you are driving and keeping the vehicle, it is likely that you will e the one that has to pay for it, unless the judge says he should pay some or all of it for you. Or unless he agrees to pay for part or all of it.
      But it sounds like when your husband “bought you a car as a gift” he didn’t actually buy you anything – because you are the one who put $5k down on it and have been making roughly half the payments – that isn’t much of a gift.
      That being said, there is no set rule as to who pays for it, but most of the time, if your incomes are somewhat similar, he would keep his car and you would keep your car – and each of you would pay your own car payments.
      If the divorce is not finalized or if there is not language stating what to do with the vehicle payments, it is essential that you get in touch with an experienced divorce attorney who will ensure that things are prepared in the proper manner or there could be other bigger issues or debts that you get stuck with if you’re not careful!

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