Divorce does not change obligations on a car note

Divorce does not change obligations on a car note

Q. I had a divorce in January 2012. In the decree, a 2012 Toyota Corolla was awarded to my ex-wife. When we bought the car, it was in her name as the buyer and mine as the co-buyer. My ex-wife had been doing very well, making all the payments on this car, until April of this year. I thought my attorney had sent Toyota finance the divorce decree to show she was liable for all future payments.

The car finance company told me it wouldn’t matter if he had sent the decree, I would still be liable. They told me the only way my name could be removed was for my ex to refinance the car or pay it off and get me to sign the title. Can her late payments appear on my credit report? What are my rights to get my name off the car note?

A. You won’t like the answer, but the divorce decree is between you and your wife. The finance company doesn’t have to follow it, and in fact won’t unless your wife refinances it and they accept her as a single borrower. Until she refinances, you still owe the money.

I suggest you speak with the finance company about what happened to see if they will remove the negative entry from your report. Also, check the report, and if it does appear, enter your own explanation. If your credit is otherwise good, this should not hurt very much. Finally, get the account information and check monthly to see if the payment has been made. If not, you should make it and demand your wife reimburse you, or take her to justice court, the new name for small claims court.


Q. I did a small construction job and was paid with a check after I completed the work. I deposited the check in my account, but it was returned because the person who gave me the check stopped payment. I went to his bank and they said it was not their problem. How do I get paid? Why doesn’t his bank owe me the money?

A. The bank does not owe you the money because a bank generally has no liability when a check is written by one of its customers. A check is simply the customer’s order to the bank to pay money to someone else. The bank usually pays the check, and that is the end of the matter. But if there is not enough money in the account or the customer tells the bank not to pay (by issuing a stop-payment order), the bank will promptly return the check, and it has no further liability. You should always view a check as the customer’s promise to pay, not an obligation of the bank.

Fortunately, however, you are not out of luck. When a check is not paid, the person who wrote the check remains responsible. I suggest you let the person know you expect him to promptly pay the check, with cash this time, and that if he doesn’t pay, you will file a claim in justice court. If you do have to sue, you can collect the amount of the check plus any fees your bank may have charged and the costs of filing the lawsuit.


Q. I have not been paid for a job. How long do I have to file a claim in justice court?

A. Your claim is for breach of contract. In Texas, you have four years to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.


Q. If a contractor does not finish a job, how long do I have to wait take him to justice court? Is there a certain amount of money I can sue for? It is a small job, and he stopped working a month ago.

A. The answer is “a reasonable time,” and it depends on what the contract says and the nature of the work. First, read your contract. If it states a period of time, that is how long you must wait. If the contract does not state a period of time, or you do not have any oral agreement about how long the contracter has to complete the work, the time period is a “reasonable time.” In my opinion, a few weeks is usually a reasonable time for a small job, unless the contractor tells you when he will come back and what the problem is.

I suggest you send him a certified letter and e-mail and tell him you will give him one week to either complete the project or let you know when he will come to finish it. If he doesn’t respond, my opinion is you can get someone else to complete it, and sue for any additional costs or money paid for work not completed.


Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website, www.peopleslawyer.net.