Declaratory Judgments aren’t always used in the context of written documents or real estate. As an example, it is often the case that the certificate of title to an automobile is clouded or is otherwise problematic. The previous owner may not have properly completed the documentation to assign title over to you. The vehicle identification number could be incorrect. The information pertaining to the lien could be wrong. Or it could be the simple case that the certificate of title has gone missing.
In such situations, it may be appropriate to petition the county circuit court for a declaratory judgment declaring your interest in the automobile. With a declaratory judgment, the Court can declare your rights and legal relations with respect to property. Substantively, it is not terribly difficult to accomplish provided you have the documentation to prove ownership; it also helps that the Department of Revenue frequently handles these types of cases and is cooperative. What can make it problematic is if there are multiple people to serve and notify. Sometimes the previous owner(s) or an existing/previous lienholder will need to be served to ensure that their rights are respected.
A declaratory judgment is litigation, albeit usually much more straightforward and expeditious. Litigation comes with attorney fees and court costs. A big issue, therefore, is whether the costs of litigation justifies pursuing a declaratory judgment. A careful balancing needs to be done to weigh such costs versus the potential reward at the end.
Contact us with questions.