Can a Husband Take a Family Car During a Divorce?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Can a Husband Take a Family Car During a Divorce?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

When couples divorce, every asset and every debt must be accounted for. The assets, meaning items of value, are generally split in an equitable manner, which may or may not mean an equal manner. However, some states are “community property" states, where the assets are divided 50/50. Assets include cash on hand, homes, household goods, and yes, cars. Whether a husband can take a family car during a divorce depends on a number of factors.

Man in suit driving car

While the Divorce is Pending

Some states require a waiting period, between six months to up to two years, before a couple can divorce. It is natural for couples to divide some or all of their property before the divorce is final. This can be accomplished a few different ways.

In some states, couples can file separation agreements. A separation agreement is a legally binding contract between the parties that allocates the assets. In theory, this allocation is not final. That happens when the divorce decree is issued. As such, parties to the divorce should know that if the court is left to make the decision, they may decide differently.

Property Allocation by Agreement

If both parties agree to the divorce, they may wish to file a joint petition if their state allows this. Alternatively, one party can file for divorce, with a proposed property settlement the parties have already agreed to. In this case, if the parties agree the husband can take the family car during the divorce, this can be accomplished with little or no difficulty. Typically, if the husband is given a high value asset, like a car, the wife is also given a high value asset to offset this. This may be another car the family owns, or some other item of value, such as art or antiques.

When the Parties Don't Agree

If the parties do not agree on the division of assets, including the family car, the judge must decide the issue. However, in some states, couples must attend mandatory mediation before their case will be heard by a judge. The goal of mediation is to attempt to resolve the parties' differences without the need for court intervention.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

In most states, the parties are entitled to whatever assets they brought to the marriage. As such, if the family car belonged to the husband prior to the marriage, it is likely he can take the car during the divorce. This is also true for most other types of premarital property. Additionally, if the car was a gift to the husband during the course of the marriage, they are likely also entitled to take the car during the divorce.

Divorce Decrees and Temporary Orders

It is not uncommon for the court to issue a temporary order while the divorce is pending. These courts typically include automatic temporary restraining orders that limit the parties from selling personal property or taking on significant financial obligations during this time. If a couple needs to sell a car, for example, they may need to make a request for a modification of the temporary order.

Car Titles

If the car is joint property, the judge can award the car to the husband or the wife, regardless of whose name is on the title.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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