What About the Cars?

One of the questions I get asked most often is something similar to: What do we do about the cars?

It’s a great question because, after a home, cars are usually the most expensive items people own, and they’re necessary to function normally in normal society. (Sorry Manhattanites who don’t even have driver licenses; you’re not normal.)

Law

In a strictly legal sense, cars are split in a divorce like every other asset (or debt, depending on whether you owe money on the car or not): equitably. Equitably means fairly, which usually means equally.

Real Life

In the real world, cars are almost always go to the person who drives them most.

This approach makes a lot of sense. Most families have at least two cars, and while couples share cars on occasion, one person drives a car much more than another, and vice versa. For example, women usually have larger cars because they transport the kids more often.

When you get a car in divorce, you take over the payments for that car if there are any. This means you may need to refinance the car loan in your name.

(Note: if you are entitled to alimony, the car payment will one of the monthly debts you’ll include as part of your overall need for alimony.)

You also need to insure the car separately, as well as remove your soon-to-be ex from the car’s title.

What About the Equity if the Cars Are Already Paid Off?

If you’ve already paid off your cars, you’ll have some equity in them. If this is your situation and you’re dividing up cars in divorce, then what we usually do is determine what the cars are worth and split the value down the middle.

Example: Wife’s car is paid off and worth $10,000. Husband’s car is paid off and worth $15,000. Total value is $25,000, and each is entitled to $12,500. This means Husband will have to give Wife $2500 to equalize things out. Normally, this is done by giving an extra $2500 from a 401(k) or taking $2500 less from the sale of the marital home, or finding some similar offset.

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