My wife & I are probably going to be divorcing very soon. We have a 9 month old baby. Both have good jobs. We basically have no debt except car & house payment. I have a 2007 pick-up that is paid off & valued at about $23000 and we recently purchased a crossover vehicle that we paid $32000 for. My question is how are the vehicles divided? Would I owe her for half of the crossover vehicle?
Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
I assume you're planning to employ counsel for the divorce. With an infant child involved, neither you nor your wife have any business representing yourself in court except as a last resort. And you should put this question to your counsel, who will have a better basis to give an informed opinion than I or anyone else reading this website can get just from your question.
Subject to that, however:
It sounds as though both cars are community property, and that the debt on the crossover vehicle is probably a community debt. When forced to divide the community estate's assets and liabilities because the parties can't reach a settlement, the family court judges have incredibly broad discretion to do so in whatever manner seems most fair to them.
If your wife contributed to paying off the pick-up, for example, most judges wouldn't think it fair for you to keep it outright and for your wife to bear 100% of the existing debt on the cross-over vehicle, even if she gets to keep it; so a judge might make some adjustment of the assets and liabilities to stick you with part of the obligation to continuing making payments on the cross-over vehicle. Or the judge might order that the cross-over vehicle be sold, and that the proceeds from the equity in the vehicle -- if there are any such proceeds, i.e., if it can be sold for more than the current loan payoff -- be split, or else (if there's no equity) that the loan deficiency be split in some fashion (not necessarily 50/50, because of the payoff of the pick-up already).
Forcing the sale of an asset like a vehicle, though, which depreciates dramatically the day it's purchased, can be a bad deal for everyone. It's often better -- and, given the expense of attorney time, sometimes cheaper -- for the parties to try to find some reasonable compromise themselves. Consider offering to let her take title to the cross-over with the further agreement that you'll make some specified amount of further payments against the note on that vehicle to offset the free-and-clear equity you're getting in the pickup. Look for some sort of compromise that leaves everyone better off than they would be if the court forced a division by compelling the sale of both vehicles.
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