How to Remove a Spouse's Name off a Title at the DMV in California in a Divorce

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How to Remove a Spouse's Name off a Title at the DMV in California in a Divorce

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

When you get divorced in California, your divorce decree details the judge's orders about whether you or your spouse retains ownership of your real estate, financial assets, and personal property, including motor vehicles. However, the decree does not change the ownership specified on your vehicle's title at the department of motor vehicles (DMV).

State of California Certificate of Title with car keys lying on top

If your vehicle titles do not accurately reflect the judge's ruling in your divorce decree, you and your spouse may need to retitle your vehicles. Here are the important steps in that process.

1. Locate your title and take it to the DMV.

Check your vehicle title to determine whether you need to make changes based on your divorce. If the title is in your name alone and the judge in your divorce awarded the vehicle to you, you do not need to do anything.

If the title lists your name and your ex-spouse's name as co-owners, take it to your local DMV office. The process of removing a spouse is essentially the same process as selling the vehicle to someone else. Both you and your spouse must sign the current title.

If you don't have your title, obtain and complete the California Application for Duplicate or Transfer of Title (Form REG 227). Fill in Section 1 with the current owners' names, addresses, and driver's license numbers. If you have a loan on the vehicle, the lienholder's information goes in Section 2, and you may need to obtain the lienholder's sign-off for Section 4. Both you and your ex-spouse sign in Section 3. If your divorce decree says you get the vehicle as part of your divorce settlement, include your information in Section 6.

2. Complete the necessary forms.

When transferring title between spouses, complete the Statement of Facts (Form REG 256). Qualified transfers are exempt from certain California taxes and requirements. Complete the form, documenting the fact that you are transferring title based on your divorce decree.

In some cases, the DMV requires additional forms before transferring a vehicle's title. Check with the DMV to understand what other forms you may need.

3. Pay the required fees and taxes.

Pay all fees related to the title transfer within 10 days of signing and dating the transfer application and title. The DMV assesses penalties for late payments, defined as being paid more than 30 days after the transfer as of May 2019. You may be responsible for filing fees, registration fees, license fees, a duplicate title fee (if applicable), and more. Check with the California DMV to determine the total amount due when you transfer title.

It is important to update your vehicle registration with the DMV as soon as practical after your divorce to comply with your court order and to avoid a situation where one spouse is potentially liable for traffic tickets, accidents, or other financial responsibilities. The process outlined above is meant to serve as a guide for avoiding this by removing your ex-spouse's name from your car title in California.

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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