I am in a situation where my estranged spouse fled the state in a vehicle that is registered and titled in both of our names. The vehicle was purchased with money given to us by my mother with the verbal agreement that we would pay her back for the vehicle once we were both again gainfully employed. Since stating that my estranged wife wished to separate, she denies ever entering this agreement with my mother and refuses to pay her for the car. She also considers the vehicle “hers” since she was the primary driver as well. It is currently in Utah, having fled the state in it with our children over a month ago.
My question is: I am currently making arrangements to have the children returned to NC and will have to go to Utah to do so. Will I bring any adverse legal consequences on myself if I were to also seize the vehicle at that time, meaning use a spare key and drive off with the vehicle and return to NC in said vehicle? My main concern is that she would report the vehicle stolen and while I would be driving the car with the title and registration in hand, would the police or highway patrol have to hold me or the vehicle in custody until ownership could be confirmed should I be pulled over? The intention of taking the vehicle in this situation is so that I can begin the process of selling it (even though I realize I need her to sign the title) and this may be the last opportunity I have to do so given that I am unsure if she will return to NC in said vehicle when she comes to fight the judgement and jurisdiction of the child custody proceedings.