How to Turn a Car Title Over to a Spouse in Divorce

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Turn a Car Title Over to a Spouse in Divorce

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

When a couple is going through a divorce, the court oversees the division of marital property among other issues. If you and your spouse jointly owned a car, both of your names are likely on the title. If the other party ends up getting the car in the divorce, you may have to turn it over to their name only so your name is no longer attached to it.

Woman sitting at a table looking at her husband who is signing documents as his daughter hugs him.  Car keys sit on the table

Car Ownership Basics

A car title, also referred to as ownership, is a document that proves who owns a vehicle. You must have it in order to complete the car registration process. It is issued by your state's department of motor vehicles. If you want to transfer it to your husband or wife, both you and your spouse must complete two basic steps in order for the process to be valid.

  • Sign the formal documentation
  • Submit the form in person at the DMV

To release ownership of a car, you must sign it on the correct line in the document. This is typically called the "Assignment of Title" section and includes a line for the signature, date, and the odometer reading. Check your state's law, because you may be required to sign in front of a notary public. Once you sign it, you no longer own the vehicle. However, your spouse must then take action to complete the transfer.

He or she must then take, or mail, the signed document and turn it in, along with the car's license plates, to the local department of motor vehicles office. The state will issue a new registration and ownership document, and your significant other can either receive new license plates or is allowed to transfer the existing plate into their name. Some states may require additional paperwork to complete the process, such as a bill of sale or a transfer form.

Dealing with Car Loans

If money is still owed on the car, the lender's name may also be on the title. This means you have a car loan that has to be settled before you can sell or transfer ownership of it. You may be required to appear at the local branch of your lender or complete other paperwork before you can transfer ownership.

As part of your divorce, you may want to request that your spouse refinance any outstanding loan into their name so that you are no longer responsible in the event of nonpayment. As long as your name is on the title or the loan, the lender can require you to pay the amount due even if your husband or wife previously agreed to be responsible for it.

If the court gives the car to your husband or wife when they are dividing up marital property during the proceedings, failure to transfer ownership of the vehicle can result in contempt charges. To avoid this, getting your name off the car title should be one of your first priorities. You can follow these two simple steps when completing the process.

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.