Info & Advice

Who gets the car and other assets on divorce or separation?

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For many people, their car, jewellery, caravan and other assets are their most valuable possessions. This may be because of their monetary value, use in terms of work and general travel, or holidays, or they are emotionally attached to it.  It is only natural to want to know how a divorce or dissolution may affect those things. This article looks at this together with what other factors you need to consider.

Can I keep my assets during a divorce/dissolution?

The first consideration is whether or not the asset in question will be regarded as matrimonial property that makes it available for distribution as part of a divorce settlement. If the asset was acquired during the marriage, it will be included within the matrimonial pot, regardless of who owns it. If you owned the item before getting married and still own it after separation, it is likely to be considered your personal property and won’t be considered for distribution.

Who owns the asset in question?

Not everything in a divorce can be split 50:50 and is typically dealt with in the following way:

  • Items belonging to one party brought into the marriage usually tend to be retained by that person
  • Items received as gifts should generally be retained by the recipient
  • Items received from one of the party’s extended family should usually be retained by them
  • Items deemed to be the personal property of one party such as books, clothes, etc will be kept by them

Dividing jointly owned assets may be more problematic, but there are several ways this can be achieved. An itemised list can be drawn up in a “Scott Schedule” and a coin tossed with the winner of the toss selecting an item, followed by the loser, continuing to rotate until all the items have been selected.

If the assets have value and they are required to meet the needs of one or both parties, the court may order their sale to raise funds to meet those requirements.

How are family heirlooms treated on divorce?

Family heirlooms that have been kept safe and unused throughout the marriage will nearly always be removed from the matrimonial pot, as there is no reason for the other party to have any claims of ownership over them.

How can I prove I own the car or caravan?

Even if you can prove you own the car, it could still be considered a matrimonial asset if the asset is needed to achieve a fair result and/or was used by the family during the marriage.

The name of an individual on the DVLA V5 certificate is simply the registered keeper, not necessarily the owner. The owner can depend on the following:

  • Who signed the sales contract/paid for the car/caravan?
  • Is there a credit agreement? If so, whose name appears on the documents?
  • Was the car a gift?
  • It is a hire purchase, and therefore owned by the contracting company until the last payment is made.

What if the parties cannot agree how the assets will be divided?

If the court becomes involved, it has the power to distribute the items in whatever manner it chooses in order to achieve a fair result. However, most judges will not spend significant court time addressing the minutiae of individually owned assets unless they are of high value. Disputes over the division of such assets can become very heated, as parties often become entrenched in the feeling they cannot live without a particular sentimental object.

The cost of solicitors engaging in correspondence can quickly incur fees that are disproportionate to the value of the items in question. When it comes to the division of personal assets, proportionality is key, and asking the court to determine ownership of these things really should be a last resort.

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