City and Borough of Juneau
155 S. Seward Street
Juneau, Alaska 99801
tel. 907-586-5240
fax 907-586-5385
http://www.juneau.org

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Q. Upon breaking down, battery died; I asked my mother for assistance.. Oodly enough she decided to keep the vehicle & hasn't returned in 3-4 days. There's absolutely no point in her having another car, she's instead trying to hold something over my head. Well I have a family with 3 kids & we need the vehicle back ASAP. On one side, yes she's correct vehicle is still registered under her name. But since purchasing vehicle outright ~1.5 years ago, it's been in my possession, & I can show a clear trail funds to purchase, service, gas, and insure we're 100% my earnings. Also, I know my mother would not lie to police when asked who's vehicle it really is. Is this enough evidence to file a report & hopefully retreive vehicle ASAP!? Or would I need to involve courts 1st?? If so, how exactly?


Dear Juneau Resident,

You are in a tough situation. When JPD officers respond to a domestic dispute the name on the lease, registration, title etc... takes a back seat to the rights of the person who has been using an item or living in a residence. This is because historically property was usually in a man's name when it belonged to a husband and wife. If there was a falling out some men would try to use those legal documents to remove the rights of the unnamed owner. There is no longer a chance of that being a successful tactic when the police arrive.

With a dispute over a car, officers would look at who has been using the car and had control of it. If we had responded to where you were broke down and your mom was trying to take the car officers would not have allowed that even with her being the registered owner. However, the situation is complicated now by the fact you allowed your mother to be in possession of and control the vehicle for a period of time. Now who 'owns' the car is a civil disagreement with evidence on both sides.

I am guessing there was no written agreement or contract. Even if there was, the police aren't going to practice property law in the field, looking at a contract, paid bills, cancelled checks and award a car to someone. All of those items will need to go in front of a judge in a civil dispute. You can consult Alaska Legal Services for free advice if you can't afford a lawyer.

It might be a better course to find a third party both you and your mother trust, maybe a sibling or family friend. That person might be able to negotiate a solution. You said your mother wants to hold something over your head. That indicates there is some non-vehicle issue going on that is probably the 'real' issue. If you can get to the bottom that problem maybe she will give the car back. If and when the car is returned to you, make sure you get it registered in your name.



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