The vehicle is marital property by virtue of your equitable contribution and the fact the title was held in your spouse's name. The automatic restraining order you are reffering to do does not apply to your father in law, but it does apply to your spouse and it applies to you. A complaint for contempt alleding violation of the automatic restraining order could be appropriate if there was equity in the asset.....without knowing why the car was sold, and what replaced it if anything restricts what I can comment on or speculate about.
Rule 411 puts in place an automatic restraining order at the commencement of an action. However there are many exceptions to this rule and as my colleague stated more information would be needed to assess whether you should file a contempt action or merely address this issue at settlement discussions / trial. I wish you all the best.
I agree with my colleagues that this was marital property, that the automatiuc restraining order was violated and that you have grounds for a contempt motion. If your divorce is still pending, however, what would you hope the contempt to accomplish? What would you want the court to order? It would seem to me that your main goal is still the end resolution and that in the end resolution (by agreement or by trial), you can bring this up and have the division of marital assets and equity divided accordingly to account for her appropriation of this asset.
To questioners from West Virginia & New York: Although I am licensed to practice in your state, I practice on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. I answer questions in your state in areas of the law in which I practice, and in which I feel comfortable trying to offer you assistance based on my knowledge of specific statutes in your state and/or general principles applicable in all states. It is always best, however, to work with attorneys and court personnel in your own area to deal with specific problems and factual situations.
The vehicle more likely than not would be considered marital property and should be included in the asset values to be divided between your spouse and you. It is possible a judge will credit you with half the value of the equity in the vehicle aqgaionst the husband's share of the assets.1
This answer does not consitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The answer is based only on the facts presented. This answer is basd only on Massachusetts law.