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My partner and I have this car and both names are on the title. The car is paid off to the dealer, but right before it was paid off my partner got in trouble and had to do 6 months in prison. The court put a lien on the car for fees he owes the court. I understand it cannot be sold until he pays these fees off. I ended my relationship with him 3 years ago and I kept the vehicle.

I have been able to renew my tags in the past. When I went to renew the tags on Friday, Motor Vehicles told me I couldn't renew the tags because my partner bought a car and it was impounded and he was being charged $500 for abandon fees. He does not have a license because it was suspended so he can't get his car out.

My question is: is there anything I can do to have his name removed so I can get my tags? They will expire at the end of June. Can I talk to Motor Vehicles and ask them, or can I maybe talk to a judge and see if he can order it to be removed? I asked him to pay the $500 fee and he said no. I can't force him to pay it and I don't have the money to pay it off. Or am I just screwed? Please help me with this mess.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this belongs on Law.SE. – RonJohn Jun 30 '19 at 1:09
  • Can you clarify if there is still a lien on the title from the unpaid fees you mention in your first paragraph, and/or any other liens? – dwizum Jul 1 '19 at 12:54
  • He owns half the car, the government isn't going to let you work around that. – Loren Pechtel Feb 25 at 4:16
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If his name is on the title, he (shared) owns the car. You cannot one-sided remove him from that, he needs to agree.

If he agrees, you both together (current owners) can sell the car to you alone (future owner), and you get a new title with only you. There is probably a short-cut to that, like a quit-deed, but certainly not without his agreement (or a court order).

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  • Note that it says she can't sell it until the fees are paid. – Loren Pechtel Feb 25 at 4:14
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You can always march down to the finance company, hand them a check, and boom the car is paid off as far as the finance company is concerned. That may have already happened. Until it does, the finance company has a lien on the car.

Now, the government also has a lien on the car. There are many ways to sell a car; some of them are managed by competent financiers who know how to settle liens on the car, because they buy cars that still have loans. Of course those people give you less money than a private sale on Craiglist. Suppose the car sells for $3000 and the liens are $1000. That means you get a check for $2000 instead of $3000. This will happen automagically if you trade-in the car on a newer car, but as said, you get less and pay more than a private sale. The dealer will do whatever it takes to get you out of that car and put you in another car in a way that's compatible with your cash flow, and he charges you for that indirectly.

You will need his consent to sell the car because you are two unaffiliated people who bought a car together. Unfortunately, you didn't go from "married" to "divorced", so the usual legal protections will not operate here. Don't do it again!

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You could go to a finance company or credit union to get a loan with the car as collateral to pay off the government lien and the abandon fees and to replace that with a new finance company loan with the car (or some other asset) as collateral, or could simply borrow money to pay off the government lien and the abandon fees.

You could sue your partner for the money you had to spend to pay off those fees, but someone in prison probably isn't good for it. You could also sell the car to a third-party with the partner's consent, pay off the lien and the abandon fee with the proceeds, and get your partner to consent to deduct the lien payoff and abandon fees from your partner's share of the proceeds.

Of course, this only works if the car is worth significantly more than the amounts encumbering it, and if someone is willing to buy a car that is currently impounded.

If you can't afford to pay a $500 abandon fee, realistically, you also can't afford to hire a lawyer, or even to pay the filing fee to bring a court case, so you might very well end up being screwed.

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