Who Is Entitled To Get The Family Car In An Indiana Divorce?

As experienced divorce attorneys at Mattox & Wilson, we understand that family vehicle distribution can often be a complex aspect of a divorce, especially in a country like the U.S., where over 91% of households have at least one vehicle, and the prevalence of two-car households stands at approximately 37%, according to Forbes.[1]

When a couple divorces, it is common for each individual to retain their respective vehicles. However, circumstances differ, and your situation may present unique complexities. You could be grappling with scenarios such as:

  • You and your spouse share just one car;
  • You both own two vehicles, but there is a significant disparity in their respective values;
  • The car bought by your spouse before marriage was paid off with money earned during the marriage;
  • A vehicle purchased during your marriage is registered under one spouse’s name only; or
  • Post-separation or post-divorce filing, either of you purchased a new car or truck.

In these instances, as well as other circumstances concerning a couple’s vehicles, the resolution heavily depends on the specifics of the situation. Furthermore, Indiana law and the methods of property division during divorce will also significantly influence the outcome.

At Mattox & Wilson, we understand that parting with a shared vehicle may carry emotional baggage, and we’re here to guide you through this process, dispelling the complexities of Indiana law along the way. Call our office today to schedule a consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options.

What Does Equitable Distribution Mean In Indiana?

Indiana follows the principle of equitable distribution. Simply put, this means that all marital assets, including vehicles, are divided in a fair manner. However, it’s crucial to understand that fairness doesn’t always equate to equal. Therefore, there could be instances where you might stand a chance of retaining the family vehicle.

While in most equitable distribution states, only “marital property” is divided during divorce, with each spouse retaining their “separate property,” Indiana law follows a different practice.

In Indiana, a judge overseeing a divorce case will typically divide all property owned by the spouses. This includes:

  • Property each spouse owned prior to the marriage
  • Property acquired through their joint efforts, and
  • Property that either spouse acquired during the marriage until the final separation date (defined as the date they filed for divorce or legal separation).[2]

Therefore, in Indiana, the property not subject to distribution in divorce is generally limited to what either spouse individually acquired (without the other spouse’s contribution) after they filed for divorce or legal separation. However, the origin of the property – whether it was acquired pre-marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage – may influence a judge’s decisions on property division.

What Happens If We Can’t Agree On Who Keeps The Family Vehicle?

Black sports carDisagreements over ownership are not uncommon, and when such scenarios surface, it may become necessary to take the dispute to court. As tenaciously litigators with decades of legal experience, we will work diligently to build a persuasive case that outlines your wishes for property division. A judge will then review your request alongside your spouse’s to make a decision that best embodies the spirit of equitable distribution. While this might seem daunting, rest assured that we are prepared to represent your best interests and tenaciously fight for what you believe is fair.

At Mattox & Wilson, we understand that divorce can be an emotionally fraught experience. As experienced divorce and asset division lawyers, we strive to shoulder the legal complexities, allowing you to focus on rebuilding and moving forward. Whether it’s the family car or other shared assets, remember, you are not alone in navigating this journey. We are here, ready to steer you through the legal maze of divorce with empathy and a commitment to safeguarding your rights. Call us today at 812-944-8005 to schedule a consultation.

[1] Car Ownership Statistics 2023, Forbes Advisor, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/car-ownership-statistics/#:~:text=Most%20households%20(91.7%25)%20had,increase%20from%202017%20(20.6%25).

[2] Ind. Code § § 31-9-2-46, 31-15-7-4.

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