Auto Court: Classic Cars and Divorce
I spend a good amount of time in court as an expert witness in classic car matters and I’m hoping to pass along to you some of the things that I’ve observed and learned.
Bad things happen to good people and sometimes car collectors find themselves in the middle of a divorce. Although we might feel that our collector cars are just like our children, and we should get sole custody, judges will simply view them as personal property. As such they will be dealt with just like the rest of your personal property.
I was recently involved in a case in which an affluent couple was getting divorced and was in the process of dividing their marital assets. Included in these assets was a 1966 Plymouth convertible that the wife drove on occasion and a 1970 Plymouth convertible that the husband drove rarely. The husband had purchased both cars a few years earlier.
As the divorce proceeded the husband casually suggested that his wife keep the 1966 Plymouth convertible and he keep the 1970 Plymouth convertible. She didn’t see any problem with this and readily agreed. Her attorney however felt that it might be wise to have both cars appraised just to make sure that the value of both cars were similar, even if not exactly the same.
I first went to their home to appraise the wife’s car which turned out to be a beautifully restored 1966 Plymouth Valiant convertible which I valued at about $15,000.00.
The husbands’ 1970 Plymouth convertible also turned out to be beautifully restored but it appraised for slightly more. Slightly more than $1,000,00.00 that is. That’s correct, one million dollars. His Plymouth turned out to be a Hemi Cuda convertible.
I am retained on a regular basis to value classic cars or collections in matrimonial cases, and I often see cases similar to this, but this one was by far the most extreme. I can’t help but wonder what was the atmosphere in the room the next time that all of the parties sat down in a room together?
In most cases, if one party wishes to keep a vehicle, the judge will allow that party to pay the other party a percentage of its value. If the partys can not agree on a value, the judge will usually order that the vehicle(s) be sold and the proceeds distributed as appropriate.