6 Steps to Get a Court Order for a Vehicle Title

How to Get a Court Order for a Vehicle Title

In this article, we are going to talk about what exactly is a court-ordered title, and how it can help you get a legal title certificate when you don’t have the right paperwork for the DMV. The primary focus is really on how to get a court order for a vehicle title so that you can put the car in your name.

You’ll typically find yourself in this situation if you bought a vehicle and didn’t receive a title, or if you did but it’s now lost or damaged. A title certificate is invalid if it has any erasures, corrections, cross-outs, or damage. So, if your title is lost, or damaged, or you never received one when buying the vehicle, a court-ordered title could be a solution in your state. In the United States, there are 3,243 counties, and most of them allow for a court-ordered title. We’ll cover the basic idea of what a court-ordered title is, how it generally works, and the steps involved. Each county might have slightly different procedures, but this article will give you a good starting point.

You Can Absolutely Get a Court Order for a Title

How to Get a Court Order for a Vehicle Title

In North Dakota, for example, the court system allows you to ask the court to give you the title to a car. If the court agrees, you can take their decision to the DMV, present it, and they’ll give you the car title. If you are representing yourself in court, you must follow the same rules as everyone else, even if they are confusing to you. If you are not sure about something, get a lawyer.

You don’t always have to, but it’s an option. Also, the court can’t help you with this process. The court clerk can’t guide you, and really, no one else can either. The same goes for this article; it’s a general guide, not legal advice or representation.

If you are a legal entity, such as a business or corporation, and you apply for a court ordered title, you can get it to a motor vehicle if the court approves. If you’re in this situation, just consider a lawyer.

If you can’t get a title from the Department of Transportation (DOT) – in most places, this is the DMV – you can ask a court to give you the title instead. This happens when the DMV can’t give you a title because you bought a car but the previous owner didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t give you the right title. Or, if someone left a car with you but didn’t hand over the title. So, you either have the right documents, or you don’t. If you don’t have proper documents, it’s not DMV’s fault they can’t give you a title. But, this court process can help you out in this situation.

How to Get a Court Order for a Vehicle Title

1. Check if the Car Has a Lien

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First off, you need to conduct a lien search. After that, you should search for the vehicle’s owner. This will cost about $5. Next, you have to send certified mail to the lien holder and the vehicle’s owner. But remember, you must use the addresses from these searches, not some address you found in the car or one the owner gave you. These addresses should come from the DMV. The next step is getting the vehicle inspected.

2. Collect all necessary documents

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This step can come alongside the first one because you need to convince the court and present proof, including the efforts you made to get a title, such as going to the DMV, contacting the previous owner, or trying to get a lien release.

The court expects you to also prove that the vehicle is yours. Do you have a bill of sale, a receipt, or any proof of payment? The court will decide whether to give you a court-ordered title based on the evidence you present. Unfortunately, verbal claims alone might not be enough to get a court order for a vehicle title. You need solid documentation of your purchase and efforts to obtain a title to strengthen your case. However, if the vehicle is reported stolen, has any liens, or is a salvage vehicle, these issues could delay or complicate getting your vehicle title.

3. Create and prepare legal documents

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This means you need to draft a summons to submit to the court. This part is particularly tough in obtaining a court order title. Unlike filling out a standard form with pre-set fields, like a DMV application or other title applications, here you start with a blank sheet of paper and create a petition. This petition explains why you, as the plaintiff, deserve relief and specifically what you are asking for.

So, you are basically stating, “I want a title for my vehicle.” At the very least, this petition should include:

  • statements about the subject matter;
  • the relevant laws;
  • why this court is appropriate;
  • the jurisdiction;
  • why the county is the right venue;
  • reasons for filing the petition;
  • the efforts you made to get the title;
  • references to your documents; and
  • your request for relief.

You must clearly inform the court what you want them to do, which, in this case, is a court order for a title. You must be precise, like saying, “I want a court order title.” Then, you sign it. Your signature confirms the accuracy and truthfulness of the petition. You cannot lie or make up information; it must be factual. This is what the court actually requires.

There are some general forms you can start with. Use them carefully because they might not be perfect for your situation, but they’re a good starting point.

If you are not sure about how to format a petition in your county, look at some old court cases from there that aren’t related to you. This will give you an idea of what the petition should look like.

4. File a Petition

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You need to give copies to the respondent, the court, and the DMV, and you’ll get a court date. In North Dakota, for example, the filing fee is $80. In most states, it’s usually between $20 to $50, but rarely over $100.

Once you file the petition, you’ll get a date to go to court. Here, you’ll present your evidence and explain your case. They might look into the vehicle’s details, and if everything’s in order, then you get a court order for a vehicle title.

A petition typically includes the names of the petitioner or plaintiff and the respondent or defendant, as well as the county it pertains to. It’s somewhat like filling in the blanks. However, you must adhere to your court’s specific format and follow the instructions for summons. You’ll need to fill in the county name, district name, and case number for this form.

5. Present Your Evidence as Best as You Can

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A civil case starts when you submit the copies and the affidavit. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that a court order title will be issued. The court doesn’t just hand it out automatically. The decision hinges on whether the court believes you have provided enough evidence to prove your claim to the vehicle’s possession and ownership. Typically, if you are applying for a court order title, you believe you are entitled to the vehicle, and you need evidence to back this up. The court isn’t aware of your experiences or struggles. You know your story – maybe you have a bill of sale, attempted to contact the previous owner or have receipts. You need to properly communicate your story to the court. A properly issued motor vehicle certificate, or title, is the main proof of ownership. If you don’t have one, a judge can direct the clerk of courts or the title office to issue you a title. If they approve it, you’ll get a certified copy of the judgment in the mail, which you’ll take to the title office.

6. Contact Your Local DMV to Get a Title

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Once you get the judgment, you take it to the DMV, present it there, and they’ll issue you a title. After getting the title, you need to go back to the title office to apply, and then they’ll issue the title to you. There’s no guarantee that the court order will compel the DMV to act, but usually, if your evidence is strong and no one else claims ownership of the car, like another owner or a lien holder, you are likely to get the title.


Almost every state follows a similar procedure when getting a court order for a vehicle title. Most states don’t provide much guidance on this. Even if you go to the court in person, they might not be able to guide you because court order titles are quite rare. Courts usually deal with other types of cases such as small claims or probate cases more frequently. Since court order titles are not common, the court staff might not even remember the exact process, so you might need to provide some information yourself.

There are different ways to obtain a title, including getting a bonded title. A court order is just one method. Also, court methods may take you to court several times, like 3-4 times, over a few months.

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