The civil lien process is commonly overlooked as a method for vehicle title recovery, but if you’re missing key ownership documents you may want to consider it. The civil lien process is for vehicle owners who are not eligible for typical title recovery methods due to missing paperwork, damaged or mutilated title documents, or other circumstances that render them ineligible according to their county. When all else fails, you can apply for a court-ordered title.
There are more than 3,600 different counties in the United States, each of which has its own civil lien process. While many processes are determined at the state level, court-ordered titles are always determined at the county level. The county for the civil lien process is typically identified as the county where the vehicle is located. Despite the differences in geographic location, most civil lien processes share similar requirements. What does a typical civil lien process look like?
Here’s an example from Fairfield County, Ohio:
Before applying for a court-ordered title, you must attempt to obtain a vehicle title at the DMV even if you know you don’t have all of the proper documents. If you’re denied a vehicle title due to insufficient evidence of ownership, then you may apply for a court-ordered title.
How to file a civil lien to obtain a court-ordered title:
Step 1: Search for a lienholder using the official DMV title records
Step 2: Search for the prior owner using the official DMV title records
Step 3: Send letters via certified mail to the lienholder(s) and the prior owner(s), informing them of your intent to apply for a court-ordered title. Allow for 15 days for the lienholder(s) or prior owner(s) to respond before proceeding.
Step 4: Pay inspection fees and obtain a receipt
Step 5: Schedule and complete the inspection
Step 6: File your petition with the County Court of Common Pleas
Step 7: Appear before a judge and make your case for vehicle ownership
Step 8: If approved, file your judgment with the Clerk of Courts and receive the court order
Step 9: Take the court order to the DMV to obtain a vehicle title
The civil lien process is not simple, but it is an available process if all other methods of title recovery are unavailable for your situation. Before proceeding with a court-ordered title, consider if another title recovery method is available. If the best option for title recovery is a court-ordered title, make sure to check the requirements of your county before proceeding. If it’s your vehicle, you deserve your name on the title.