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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 3029
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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I've been in CA months to help my disabled parents.

Customer Question

I've been in CA for several months to help my disabled parents. My siblings and I are trying to move Dad (and my mother if she is willing) to MO, where two of my brothers live. My mother is mentally ill. She believes we are conspiring against her. She is a control freak and has made everything very difficult for us, because she has ultimate legal authority over Dad's healthcare and finances. In particular she has taken a lot of this out on me, since I'm the one out here in person.
Eventually she kicked me out of their house, unexpectedly. Due to my own financial troubles I was faced with being completely stranded--no place to live, and no way to get around. (I never needed a car of my own as I have previously lived in areas with other transit options.) I found a place to live, but I do not have the money to buy a car and my only option for transportation was to ask my parents if I could continue to have use of one of their two cars--as they had originally granted me in exchange for all the help I've been giving them, since I only came out here in the first place to help them out. (And I feel quite betrayed about how everything has played out.) They agreed to let me have use of the car, provided I got their second car in working order, which I did. I then moved out and took the first car with me.
I knew my mother would try to alter this car-use deal after the fact, as a weapon. (Remember that she is a control freak.) She plays her games with no regard for the real-world consequences, but if she were to pull out the car from under me, not only would that threaten my own safety, but Dad's as well. (Among other things, she has threatened to abandon him several times in recent months.) It could just be hot air, but she really is out of her mind. As the only other family member out here, I have to take her threats seriously, to say nothing of respecting my own self-interest.
(My siblings and I do not want to pursue a conservatorship at this time because that would make it hard and costly to move Dad out of CA, and we are trying to move him to MO where a couple of my brothers live.)
I explained the situation to Dad privately before I moved out, and asked him to transfer legal ownership of the car to me. That way I would be able to remain mobile and local during a frankly dangerous time. He was able to understand my request in real-time and agreed to it (otherwise I would have abandoned the idea), but because of his dementia he has no memory of it now. (Thus it's a he-said, she-said kind of thing.)
Sure enough, after I left my mother tried to pull the car out from under me. She called a few days later (in the middle of the night!) and demanded it back immediately, lying to me that our original agreement was different from what we had all actually agreed to. (I never told her that I arranged with Dad to gain ownership of the car; all she knows about is the agreement the three of us made for me to have use of the car.) When I held firm and told her what our original agreement actually was, she went berserk over the phone and has since begun telling family members that I've stolen it. She also claims I've been stealing their mail. (WTF?)
Both of their names were on the old Title, but with "OR" between them. I had no problem changing the Title at the DMV with just Dad's signature on the release line. I believe I've acted lawfully at every step of the way, through a very difficult set of circumstances, for the best interests of all parties involved. But ultimately I'm not the one who decides what the law actually is.
What should I do? Does my mother have a legal case if she goes to a lawyer or the police? Should I talk to the local police myself? Should I try and get a restraining order? (I definitely feel harassed by her cruel and erratic behavior.)
But most importantly, do I lawfully own this car or not?
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 months ago.
Hello, Has your mother actually involved the police and charged you with stealing the car? Would your father back you if the police did have you arrested? Who else had direct knowledge about your permission to take the car?

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