What about the car?

You can try to get the car as part of a 209A protective order.  You can ask the judge to order the abusive person to give you the car and the keys to it. Or, you can ask the judge to order the abusive person to pay you the value of the car16.

The judge is more likely to order that you get to use the car if you need the car to take care of a child or you need it to get to work. The judge may see that you need a car to drive your child to school, day care, or medical appointments, or to buy your child food and other things he or she needs.  In any case, you need to show that your need for the car is the result of the abuse.  For example, because of abuse you moved out and got a protective order.  If you needed the car to take your child to day care, you may still need it.

If the judge decides that you need the car, the 209A protective order might only say that you can use the car. A 209A protective order cannot say that you own the car permanently.

I am married to the abusive person and the car is in his name. Can I take it?

Married people can own separate property.  Your can own a car in your own name.  Your spouse can own a car in his own name.

If you get divorced, the court divides the couple’s property.  Cars are included. A car or its monetary value, whether yours or his, is included in the total amount to be divided.

If the car is in your spouse’s name, just taking it can have serious legal consequences.

If you get a 209A order and it does not say that you can use the car, you may be able to get the car if you go to court for divorce.  In your divorce case, you can ask the judge to order that you can use the car until the case is finally decided. 

If you want to own the car permanently, you need to ask for this as part of a divorce or separate support case. At the end of the case, the judge will decide who gets the car, or its value, when she divides your property.

Remember

If you do file for divorce or separate support, the judge decides every issue in your marriage, from custody and visitation to alimony and child support.  Be prepared to deal with all these things when you file for divorce or separate support.

I am not married to the abusive person. Can I take the car?

If the car is in your name, you can take it.

You can also take the car if it is in both of your names, since it belongs to both of you. If the abusive person calls the police, show the police officer the title to the car with your name on it.

If the car is only in the abusive person's name, it is not legal for you just to take it. 

Endnotes

16

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated November 2010

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