Refusal to Give the Title in a Divorce

By Michael Butler

If one party to a divorce refuses to give over title to a joint piece of property, the process to handle the problem varies depending on where you are in the divorce process. Refusing to agree to give title over to the other spouse during settlement negotiations is handled differently from a refusal to obey a court order to give over the title.

Marital Property and State Law

In a divorce, all the marital property of the couple must be divided according to the laws of the state. Most states prefer that the parties reach their own agreement as to how the property is divided. The agreement is then submitted to the court for approval. Generally, if the parties cannot agree on their own, the court will order the parties to a neutral, third-party mediator to facilitate an agreement. As a last resort, the court will conduct a trial and a judge will determine how the property is divided.


It is not unusual for a married couple to own property jointly, even if only one of them uses the property. For example, a car might be titled in both of their names even though the practice is that only one of them drives that particular car. If the person who doesn't use the car refuses to give the title to the one who does, the person who drives the car normally should gather evidence to show that she is the one who uses it. This evidence can be presented to a mediator, who might be able to convince the other party that his stance is unreasonable. If the divorce goes to trial, the same evidence should be presented to the court.

After Divorce

Whether the property was divided by a settlement agreement or by the court at trial, the property division is an order of the court. Both parties must carry out those actions necessary to effectuate the court's orders, including signing any necessary title documents. If one of the parties refuses to carry out the court order, the other party can file a motion for contempt with the court, asking the court to order the refusing party to comply within a specified time period or face other sanctions, which might include fines and jail time.


Generally, one party's refusal to follow the terms of a divorce does not relieve the other party of her duty to follow the court's orders. You should not retaliate against an uncooperative ex-spouse by refusing to meet your obligations, unless your obligations are impossible because of your ex-spouse's refusal to cooperate. If your ex-spouse is being uncooperative, you should contact a lawyer to determine the best options for relief in your state.