Even if you've kept your divorce private, the California Department of Motor Vehicles needs to know. California car owners are required to report any change in ownership to the DMV, and that includes deleting the name of an owner. You have to follow the same procedure as for a vehicle sale, with certain exceptions that will save you money.
Vehicle Transfer in California
California law treats any change in the registered or legal ownership of a vehicle as a transfer of ownership, including the simple removal of the name of one owner. In general, to transfer ownership of a vehicle, the owner relinquishing title and the owner taking title must both sign the certificate of title. This means that both you and your spouse must sign the document.
Certificate of Title
The appearance of California's certificate of title has changed over the years. Before 1988, the certificate was 4 by 5 inches and known as "the pink slip." Certificates issued since 1988 are slightly bigger and rainbow-hued. Regardless of which type of certificate you have for your car, your spouse, as the owner relinquishing title, signs where designated on the front page. As the owner taking title, you sign on the back and note your address and telephone number.
California law requires that an owner transferring an interest in a vehicle report the odometer reading to the DMV. When the California DMV introduced the rainbow title certificate in 1988, it included a space on the title to report the odometer reading at the time of release. Those persons whose title is a pink slip report the odometer reading on a separate form, the Vehicle/Vessel Transfer Form, available from the DMV and legal form providers. Since your spouse is treated under the law as a transferring owner, he must fill in and sign the odometer reading on the appropriate form.
Statement of Facts
If you sell your vehicle to a stranger in California, you typically must submit proof that the car recently passed a smog test and pay a use tax. The transfer of vehicle ownership from one spouse to another is exempt from both of these requirements. In order to justify the exemption, the transferring owner must complete a DMV Statement of Facts form documenting that the transfer is between spouses who are divorcing. You can obtain the form from the DMV website, a DMV office or a legal document provider.
Transfer Fee and Registration
Since your transaction is a transfer between spouses, you do not have to pay a renewal registration fee unless your registration happens to be due at the same time. Title transfers between family members, however, do incur a transfer fee. As of 2012, the amount of the transfer fee is $15. If you take a check for that amount and other requisite documents to the DMV office nearest you, the DMV will issue a new registration card and mail a new certificate of title to you within 60 days.