Can I trade in my SUV for a better mpg car? Divorce not final / No assets discussed yet only custody, visits & support.

We have only had the first court date so far. Custody, visitation, & support were the only things discussed. Problem is I can’t afford to keep gas in the car, especially with gas prices on the rise. He has a car, I have a car and we also have a third car our teen drives. The third car is even worse on gas – older model SUV, so I can’t just drive that. Thanks for info, I understand I have to check with court, but just wondering.

Asked on June 15, 2009 under Family Law, California


Oksana Van Rooy, Attorney at Law / Law Offices of Oksana Van Rooy

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

When you file for a divorce in CA, or you get served with Summons, Standard Family Law Restraining Orders (as stated on Summons) apply to you. They read, in pertinent part: " and your spouse... are restrained from transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing, or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, ... without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life."

Accordingly, if you get a written consent of your husband or an order of the court - you surely can trade your SUV. Also, based on your described circumstances, it is probably safe for you to trade it in even without the other party's consent or the order of the court. IF this question comes up later, you would just have to show that it was the necessity of your life (i.e., you could not afford gas in this car.) However, you have to understand that it is possible that during the final division of your community property, you might have to reimburse to your husband half of the value of the community property that is in this car (assuming, of course, that there is any equity, i.e., the car worth more now than you owe on it.) 


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