05th Feb 2020

Divorce And The Family Car – Part 2

In the second part of our blog ‘Divorce and the family car’ (find the first part here) Carla Ditz looks at some of the administrative issues you will need to consider if a car has been or is about to be transferred into your name following divorce or separation, as well as your legal obligations.

Once an agreement has been made on divorce or separation as to who will keep the family car, there will be a number of practical steps that will need to be taken.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but some essential considerations include:

  1. Transfer of ownership – in whose name is the car? Do you need to transfer ownership to your former partner? Of should they be transferring the car to you? The DVLA will need to be informed of any changes and updates to the records (V5C vehicle registration document or ‘log book’) will need to be made if switching ownership from one party to the other.

It is important to distinguish between who is the registered ‘keeper’ and who is the ‘owner’ of the car as the two are not always synonymous. The keeper is the person who is legally responsible on a day to day basis for the vehicle and they will not have necessarily bought the car themselves. The registered keeper’s name will be registered on the V5C.

The owner of the car may well be the other party or perhaps a business, where the car is a company car. The V5C document is therefore not proof of ownership.

Crucially, it is the keeper who is responsible for ensuring car insurance is in place, road tax has been paid and that the car has had a recent MOT (where required) as well as being responsible for parking fines. Where there is a change of ownership/keeper, the V5C will need to be completed and sent back to the DVLA who will then issue a new one with the new details. The transfer of ownership can also be done online via the DVLA website.

In order to transfer ownership of a vehicle to a new keeper (eg from one former spouse to another), both parties must sign and date the V5C document before sending the document to the DVLA to be updated. The application can be done either online or by completing the hard copy document.

  1. Insurance – You may need to remove one party’s name from the insurance and that may lower the cost but in any event, you will need to inform the insurance company of any changes.

Separately, if you are not sure if the vehicle is insured, you can search online using the Motor Insurance Database

Do take care, you may find yourself driving uninsured because you assume that your ex partner is managing the paperwork and they have quietly closed down the arrangement.

  1. Car Tax / Road Tax (Vehicle Exercise Duty (VED)) – more often than not, you will be aware that the car tax has been paid on the vehicle. The DVLA will have a record confirming the same if you need to check. It may be that your car is exempt from car tax eg) some electric cars, or that you do not have to pay road tax if the car has a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). The uk website contains details about the relevant tax rates for vehicles as well as the DVLA website.

One important point to remember is that upon transferring ownership of a vehicle, the DVLA will refund the previous owner any full months’ left on the vehicle tax. So a new owner will need to make sure they tax the vehicle before driving it.

  1. Personalised registration plates – is there a registration plate which one party wishes to keep? The registration plate itself may have value if it is a particularly unusual personalised plate. Or the registration plate may have a sentimental value.

If you wish to transfer a personalised registration plate to another car straight away, you will need to complete Form V317. You also have the option of retaining the personalised plate, so that you can transfer it to another vehicle at a later date (which requires a ‘retention document’ – V778 – enabling you to keep it for up to 10 years).  A CT/Retention Pack can be obtained from the DVLA. In order to make the application, you must be the registered keeper or are about to become the registered keeper. If the registration number is being transferred to someone else’s vehicle, then both registered keepers need to complete the application.

These are just some of the main considerations on transferring car ownership. Whether you are on the receiving end of a car ownership transfer or not, you will need to make sure that legal obligations have been transferred into the receiving party’s name and that the relevant authorities have been updated.

There is guidance on both the Gov.uk website as well as the DVLA website which can assist further.

For information or advice regarding any of the topics discussed in this blog or for independent legal advice on your divorce or separation, please contact any of our talented team of family lawyers at Family Law in Partnership on 020 7420 5000 or contact us at: hello@flip.co.uk