Navigating Horses and Divorces

  • Like many assets, horses need to be appraised for their value during a divorce.
  • Cloned horses do not have to be registered.
  • The Horse's DNA and offspring can play a factor in the division of assets.

In a divorce, assets are valued and divided. Monetary value can be placed on an asset without the emotional attachment that can often murky the list of priorities for what an individual wants out of their divorce settlement. The emotional attachment can be understandable, especially if what the individual wants is a pet.

However, when the pet has a potentially high monetary value, the fight for it can get intense. Horses, in particular, carry a great deal of monetary value, especially if a mortality insurance policy is in effect on the horse’s life.

Monetary value

According to the Daventry Agricultural and Livestock Appraisal Services, the insurance policy dictates the approximation in replacement costs in the event of the animal’s death. In the same vein, owners often have the inkling to sell or auction off their horses, which means that the reserve bid or asking price should represent at least a well-educated person’s best guess about the horse’s actual value. The same information can be useful in lawsuits concerning a horse’s death.

This value stems from the idea that the replacement cost for a horse will mirror the horse’s fair market value, which is the amount that the asset (in this case, the horse) would bring if offered for sale by a willing seller with no obligation to sell and purchased by a willing buyer with no obligation to buy. In order to properly value the horse as an asset in a divorce, it can often require a professional appraiser.

Equine appraisal

For horses, professional appraisers review relevant information about the horse, in order to make their best estimate on the horse’s value. This estimate is based on research on public and private sales of horses with similar pedigrees.

In addition, the appraiser also takes a look at the purchase price, age, and skill level of the horse, according to horse news site, Horse Nation.

However, the appraiser also needs to be able to have access to information that positively identifies the horse or horses in question, in order to avoid fraud. Due to the highly sensitive nature in the legal proceedings of a divorce, providing that type of information, in order to properly evaluate the horse’s worth as an asset, is completely understandable.

The appraiser also might look into the health certificate for the horse, especially if there is not going to be a physical examination by a veterinarian. Professional appraisers generally assume the horse in good health, unless they possess the veterinarian qualifications in some way.

Professional appraisers also are evaluating the value of the horse at the time of the appraisal. Like many assets, the value of a horse can change over time. In addition, a horse’s worth can affect tax planning and estate planning, because of the horse’s value as an asset. However, not everyone involved in a divorce may be looking at the horse as a monetary asset.

Emotional decisions

For many individuals going through a divorce, losing custody of their pet is an experience with a strong sense of loss attached to it. For many owners of various animals, they may feel that the horse has an inherent worth beyond any value that an appraiser can assign to it. The emotional distress that one party may be feeling is attached to an expectation that the court will take into consideration the feeling of loss that they are experiencing. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

The next step is deciding how to split the horse. Selling the horse and splitting the money is on the table, and another option includes one party choosing to by the other party out. Joint ownership also is possible, but during a divorce, that option is not employed very often.

DNA discussion

Another aspect that is often a point of contention when horses are involved in divorces is DNA, according to The Equine Chronicle. Due to the ruling of the United Stated Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case with The American Quarter Horse Association, horses that have been created as a result of cloning are not required to register. As a result, the value and appraisal of many horses and breeds would not be of a similar value as horses and breeds that are registered.

Additionally, samples of the horse’s DNA intended for the specific use of future breeding can be a valuable asset in what The Equine Chronicle refers to as an equestrian divorce. Sometimes, the sample can be asked for as a separate asset to that of the horse itself. There also is the possibility of putting specific horse-related requirements in the divorce agreement, where one party owns the horse and the other party has a right to have a set number of breedings per year in future years.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Marital matters

Horses, as an asset, also can find itself subject to the state’s status as a community property or equitable distribution state. If one party can prove that a horse is separate property from that of marital property, then it cannot be divided.

This can call into question whether offspring, DNA samples, or embryos also would be considered as separate property, especially if any of them were created during the marriage. There also are questions regarding alimony and child support, if the horse’s primary use is for the child.

For married couples with horses, they can find themselves very attached to their animal and may think of them as a member of the family. However, divorce shines a light on that idealism and creates a need to sort through the nuts and bolts of owning and maintaining a horse.

The logistics of horse appraisal may seem like an unappealing and time-consuming task, but it’s important in the bigger picture of dividing all of a couple’s assets in the divorce process.

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