A woman's car was repossessed after her ex-husband forged her signature on documents putting the vehicle up as security for a personal loan.

Adam Thomas Fitzpatrick did not have the victim's permission to use the car as security for his loan, the Whanganui District Court heard on Tuesday.

Fitzpatrick forged the victim's signature when applying for the loan in March 2014, police prosecutor Sergeant Rachel Willemsen said.

He was declared bankrupt in 2015 and the car was repossessed.

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When spoken to by police "the defendant stated he was broke and made a stupid mistake", Ms Willemsen said.

He pleaded guilty to forging to obtain over $500.

Defence lawyer Harete Hipango said Fitzpatrick's "life was in tatters".

Fitzpatrick's marriage had failed and he was staying with his father, and needed the money for living expenses.

She said he was able to find work for one week to raise $100 reparation, though the cost of having the car released was $1500.

"He's bereft of any form of income," Ms Hipango said.

She said Fitzpatrick had no criminal history.

"It was more than a stupid mistake, it was actually an act of desperation."

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Judge David Cameron sentenced Fitzpatrick to 40 hours of community work and ordered he pay further reparation of $1400.