Does a Divorce Decree Nullify a Car Title?

By Marcy Brinkley

A divorce decree is a court order signed by a judge when she grants a divorce. Depending on the circumstances, the decree may include provisions for transferring property and allocating debts of the marriage. Although the divorce decree can reassign ownership of vehicles and other property, the decree does not nullify or invalidate the title. The parties must request a new title from the vehicle registration agency in the county where the vehicle is located.

Car Titles

Each state has a system of titling and registering vehicles located within its boundaries. The certificate of title lists the vehicle identification number, current owner's name and address, and other pertinent information. On the request of the buyer, the state issues a new title whenever ownership changes. New residents must also request a new title when they move from one state to another. Because the current owner is liable for traffic tickets, parking tickets and damage caused by his vehicle, it is important to ensure the title is changed as quickly as possible after any transaction that changes ownership, including a divorce.

Car Titles After Divorce

If you owned a car during the marriage, the divorce decree should state which party will be the owner after the divorce. If you have several vehicles, each should be listed. In some states, listing the manufacturer, year and general description is sufficient; in other states, you must include the vehicle identification number and color as well. Generally, it is helpful to include an order stating when the car will be delivered to the other party, if applicable, and when the previous owner will sign the title over to the receiving party. Changing ownership of the vehicle in the divorce decree does not, however, change the car title itself since that document is handled by the state and the new owner must request a new title.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Transferring the Title

Depending on the state where the car will be located, you may have as few as 10 days or as long as 30 days to begin the process of changing the title. Active duty service members stationed in another state or country may request an extension of the deadline. The parties are responsible for handling the necessary paperwork, which typically involves submitting a request for new title, certified copy of the divorce decree, current title, and transfer fee to the local taxing authority. If, for example, John Smith owned the vehicle during the marriage but it is awarded to Mary Smith in the divorce, John signs the back of the title as seller and Mary requests a new title in her name.

Car Loan

Changing the name on the title does not affect liability for the monthly payments on the car. If you and your spouse co-signed the car loan, you are both responsible for the payments after the divorce even if only one party will be in possession of the vehicle. If possible, the spouse who keeps the car should refinance the note in his name only. Otherwise, the couple should sell the car before divorcing and split the proceeds, if any. As a last resort, you may include a provision in the decree that the party awarded the car will continue making payments on it until the note is paid off but the lender is within his rights to try to collect from both spouses if there is a default on the payments.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce Laws and Automobiles


Related articles

Can a Trustee Sign the Title of a Car Over Upon the Death of the Owner?

Many people establish trusts to avoid probate proceedings for their heirs. Revocable trusts are the most popular choice for estate planning. This is because the trust maker retains full rights to change asset distributions, beneficiaries and trustees. A trustee manages and controls trust assets for the benefit of the trust's named beneficiaries and may transfer title to real and personal trust property according to the trust's terms.

Is Husband Responsible for Wife's Car Payments After Saying She Is Divorcing?

Whether you must continue making payments on your wife's vehicle after she announces that she's leaving you depends on a variety of factors, namely whether the vehicle is your wife's separate property and when it was acquired. If the car is owned by both of you, you are both responsible for the car payments until the court awards the car and responsibility for payments to one of you during the divorce.

Can I Assume a Mortgage After Divorce?

Two incomes are better than one when it comes to making mortgage payments. Divorcing couples become well aware of this fact when struggling over who will continue making mortgage payments on their marital residence. Even though a divorce decree may be relatively easy to obtain when both spouses are agreeable, getting a lender to agree to a mortgage assumption or modification of the terms of a loan may be more difficult.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Change a Vehicle Title Into Only One Person's Name After a Divorce

If a divorce awarded you the family wheels, then you'll be responsible for keeping that title document in good order. ...

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

When a couple separates, they must separate their personal lives, their finances and their property. During marriage, ...

Deleting an Owner From a Certificate of Title in a Divorce in Colorado

When a married couple splits up in Colorado, their property is also split between them. The judge's order of ...

Divorce Laws on Refinancing

Divorcing couples have to find a way to split their assets, including the marital home, as part of the divorce ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED