How are Vehicles Valued in a Legal Separation or Divorce?

March 27, 2024 | By Doppelt and Forney
How are Vehicles Valued in a Legal Separation or Divorce?

In San Diego, automobiles are normally the second most expensive purchase that a family will ever make outside of real estate. In almost all legal separation and divorce cases, these are assets to be divided.

The following is the generally accepted procedure which is utilized by most San Diego Superior Courts Judges:

  1. The court will take judicial notice of the Kelley Blue Book. For your ease of use, the website link is below. This is pursuant to California Evidence Code Section 452 (h).
  2. Vehicles should be valued according to the Kelley Blue Book mid range value. The calculation is determined by taking the average of the low (wholesale) and high (retail) base numbers. This can then be adjusted to reflect accessories and mileage.
  3. If one party disputes that value, the burden is on that party to prove that a different value is appropriate. This can be done by expert testimony.
  4. The obligation on the car will then be deducted from the fair market value to determine the community property value for equalization purposes.

What is the procedure if the car is an antique or not within the norm for kelley blue book valuations?

The Kelley Blue Book value will be, for most cars, the most appropriate procedure for determining balue. For automobiles which are rare, very old, highly modified, in very bad or very good condition, then the average values may be either not available or not reliable.

In these cases, specific evidence on their value will need to be submitted. Either party is competent to express opinions as to the value of the automobiles under California Evidence Code Section 813 (a)(2)). However, as above, expert testimony may be required.

What are some issues regarding the debt on the vehicle if in both spouse’s names?

In many divorce and legal separation cases, there is a debt owed on the car which is a community property debt as well as the car being a community property asset. It is very important not to have an obligation which is court ordered on an asset which you do not have an ownership interest in.

As such, for example, if there are two cars and each spouse is taking one car, the procedure is to use the fair market value minus the debt to determine the community property interest. Assuming one car’s community value is $20,000 and the other car’s value is $10,000, then there would be a $5,000 equalizing payment for the spouse who takes the lower value car.

The obligation, for both vehicles, should then be transferred into the name of the spouse who is being confirmed this vehicle only. This may be easier said than done since it often requires refinancing.

How Can A Local San Diego Law Firm Help?

Doppelt and Forney, APLC, has experience in family law issues including division of vehicles and equalizing payments. Please feel free to contact their office for a complimentary virtual consultation up to 30 minutes. Making an informed and intelligent decision about your family law case requires you to first have accurate information.