Unless a crime has been committed or someone is in immediate danger, the police are unlikely to intervene in civil disputes. However, we’ll put you in touch with the groups and organisations who can help. Complete the sentence below to get the advice you need to resolve your dispute as quickly and amicably as possible.

Advice tool

I’m having a dispute with an ex-partner or spouse about who owns the car

Whether a person is the owner of a vehicle is a question for a court to decide. Facts to consider are:

  • the way the person treats or uses the vehicle
  • whether they have insurance for it
  • whether they've spent money on its purchase and upkeep

A registration document (V5) is not proof of ownership. The DVLA make a point of saying that the person named on the V5 is not necessarily the owner. They are considered responsible for the vehicle by the police and DVLA, but the owner is the person who paid for the car, or to whom it was given as a gift.

Cars used by married couples are usually considered joint-owned.


It's an offence for a person to dishonestly take property belonging to someone else with the intention of permanently depriving them of it.

It's not considered dishonest if a person has a genuine belief that:

  • they have a legal right to the property
  • the other person would consent if they knew of the taking and the circumstances of it
  • the owner couldn't be traced by taking what a court would consider reasonable steps

The vast majority of cases are not theft. They are civil disputes and for this reason we would initially recommend speaking to a solicitor or Citizens Advice. If they recommend reporting the matter to us, please report it to us online.

Getting a car returned to you

If you're the legal owner of the vehicle and your ex-partner or spouse has it, you can either:

  • require its return and seek a court order to this effect, or
  • sue them for its cost; you'll need to seek legal advice from a solicitor to do this

This information is provided courtesy of Ask the Police.