Philadelphia, PA asked in Divorce and Family Law for Pennsylvania

Q: Can my spouse gain my new car after a divorce?

I got my car before my marriage, but I plan on trading it in next year. The new car that I get would be during the marriage but the loan is carrying over from my old car. Can I possibly lose my car if I get a divorce even though I only drive it, pay for it, and my name is on everything? Or should I do a post-nuptial agreement, to keep all my assets safe from a divorce?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Peter Christopher Lomtevas
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  • Schenectady, NY
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: This is a hyper-technical question that relies heavily on the knowledge and experience of the Pennsylvania judge.

The asker paints a picture that shows her separate property acquired prior to marriage, an automobile, which is a rapidly depreciating asset. Ordinarily, cars are ignored in divorce litigation given their falling worth, but the marital money used to buy the automobile is not a falling asset.

One judge could find that a portion of the car's worth belongs exclusively to the asker, and some portion of the new purchase using marital money goes to the other spouse. Another judge can find that the whole car before and after goes to the asker because she is allowed under law to spend marital money on an automobile as she is allowed to spend money on food meaning that such spent money is not recoverable in divorce.

Pennsylvania law favors the first judge's finding. However, Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state which means the totality of the marital estate is split and not every individual asset is split. Perhaps the asker can keep her car while the other spouse keeps his tool kits, or baseball card collection, or camera equipment, as an example.

Post nuptial agreements are best suited for very high net worth spouses with complex financial structures to protect. As a vehicle depreciates into oblivion, wasting time and money on a post nuptial agreement for an automobile is a bad idea as far as financial planning is concerned. However, we have no idea of the level of wealth the asker has, and this answer is merely an educational foray into equitable distribution law and not specific legal advice given to an anonymous asker in a vacuum.

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