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Divorce Settlement and Personal Property: Am I required to pay for FUTURE boarding for my ex-wife's horse?

Olympia, WA |

My divorce agreement states: "The horse owned by the parties shall be owned by my ex-wife. I shall maintain the horse at the Martial Home (I live there, she lives in a new house) and shall pay all costs associated with boarding (including food and shoeing) through summer 2012. The horse shall be sold by Sept 2013. If the horse is not sold by the time I sell the marital home, the cost of the horse boarding shall be split between the parties 50/50." I put my house up for sale as it said to in our agreement. My house is NOT sold. I was boarding the horse at my home, but my ex-wife decided to move the horse early in July 2013 to a very costly sale barn. I paid for half of July and Aug boarding, and shoeing, but she wants me to split FUTURE boarding and all horse bills until the horse sells?

Am I required to pay for boarding at an expensive barn, instead of boarding at my house as my agreement says? The horse sale could take months. Any help is appreciated.

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

This is going to depend on the exact language of the decree of dissolution / separation of property agreement.

From what you have stated, it does not appear that the decree has a provision that if the martial house is still an available option, that she can choose on her own accord to move the horse to another boarding facility and expect you to pay half of the expenses. As long as your residence is a viable place to continue boarding the horse, the most she would probably be entitled to is half of the cost had the horse still been at your house. Any additional costs incurred because of her choice to board the horse at a new facility would/should be borne by her. That would be part of your argument.

Now as to what happens when you refuse to pay is any ones guess, most likely is she files a show cause motion and drags you to court.

Your best option is to speak to the attorney that handled your divorce or seek new counsel and have them look at your dissolution paperwork. This usually comes down to what it states specifically in the decree.

You have a good argument so speak with an attorney and I wish you the best.

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Lee Alan Thompson

Lee Alan Thompson

Posted

So Douglas, even though I tried to answer this and I agree with you, do really think this is clear or am I operating in a fog today?

Posted

This clear as mud to me. Since she took the horse, I don't think you should have the additional cost. It was contemplated on the one hand the boarding would end September, 2013 but then it makes it appear it continues until the home is sold and some the total(?) cost of boarding would be split from the proceeds. See an attorney so the full papers can be reviewed. I read it that she owes you money but it will probably result in a contempt being filed. Defend it. I don't see a willful violation of the order by you but an attorney can figure that out.

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Douglas R Barnes

Douglas R Barnes

Posted

Mr. Thompson you are correct in your answer. It is not completely clear. We can’t know unless you can read the dissolution paperwork. It seems to me that, and I am completely speculating here, the intent was probably that the horse (value of the horse) was award to the wife and the house to be sold and division of the proceeds as set forth in the decree. As the horse was currently being boarded at the house the arrangement the status quo would continue until either the house was sold or the horse was sold by September of 2013. That brings up the critical point of what happens if the house was sold, but the horse was not by September 2013? The answer to that question is not apparent. For example, the ASKER (“Asker”) sold the house in March of 2013. The horse would have to be moved to a new boarding location, and according to the information provided, the Asker would be required to pay his 50% share of the boarding costs at the new location. But does this obligation end on August 31st or does it continue until the horse is sold? Obviously both parties are required to make a good faith effort with regards to selling the horse. It doesn’t state that the 50/50 split continues in perpetuity until such a time as the asset is disposed, in this case the horse. I have seen this kind of thing personally when it comes to the division of timeshares/vacation property where there is a ongoing obligation of maintenance dues. The property is ordered to be sold by a certain date and it is not sold yet there is no guidance in the final decree as to what happens past this date with regards to the dues. The crux of the question as I see it is what are each parties obligation with regards to the maintenance of the horse after September 2013? Would the Asker be entitled to an offset as to the proceeds the wife would receive once the house is sold if he continued sharing the cost of boarding the horse? Would she have a claim against him for the lost value of the horse because he failed to pay his 50/50 share that results in the complete loss in value of the horse (asset) because of her inability to pay the boarding costs? Obviously, these are rhetorical in nature but they are frustrating. Which is why “Open-ended” divisions of property that have an ongoing financial obligation are aggravating. Furthermore, exacerbated by the fact that using enough foresight by the Attorney in the drafting process, are usually preventable.

Lee Alan Thompson

Lee Alan Thompson

Posted

Well, you're right, we don't have the exact wording of the agreement/order. The Asker inserted personal pronouns in the question, which is fine for purposes here. The actual wording may be clearer. He paid not only the cost until she moved the horse but thereafter for the months of July and August. In fact, an increased cost it sounds like she moved the horse. Based upon what is presented, I believe his obligation ended for the full cost but he may owe 50% until the home is sold but perhaps the entire amount is paid by her and she gets reimbursed one-half from the proceeds of sale of the home. I don't believe she gets reimbursed the increased cost by having moved it from the marital home. Again, we can't look at the actual document but based on this, I'd rather be defending him in court. It may be the actual wording makes it clearer but if not, these folks are headed back to court. That may depend as well on the actual cost of boarding and whether it's worth it but, I'm reading he shall maintain the the horse and the home. In other words it wasn't deeded over to him. Good luck to him when he tries to sell it if they both have to agree on the FMV and even if they do, cashing the check if made out jointly.

Posted

So you're selling a house and a horse, right? You really do need to speak with the attorney who handled your divorce because it does not seem that the possibility of having the horse moved from the marital home stable was contemplated nor was the possibility that the horse wouldn't be sold considered. Your divorce attorney is the one in the best position to figure this all out for you. If you didn't use an attorney for your divorce, that explains some of the gaps. If that's the case, consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area. This is just too much for those of us on the simple forum to sort out. Good luck to you.

Be sure to click Best Answer if you found this helpful. Disclaimer: Please note that this response does not in any way an attorney-client relationship between Kathryn L. Hilbush and the recipient. My responses are general in nature. They do not constitute legal advice. You are advised to consult an attorney regarding this and any other legal matters.

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