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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