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Does a handwritten agreement need to be notarized to work in court?

Nicholasville, KY |

One of my family members wanted a puppy from me and the price for the puppy was $100 and she paid me $40 and agreed to pay me the remaining $60 when she got her child support. So we made a handwritten agreement stating that she would pay me the $60 on 3-20-12, but it wasnt notarized? And i have messages before the 20th just asking to make sure she was still going to pay and she said yes in the emails. Now she gave the dog to her brother who will not pay me anything for the dog and she is now telling me that we never signed a paper and that i forged her signature which isnt true at all. I still have the paper she signed and i wanted to take her to court but wasnt sure if the agreement i had would work?

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

Yes, the written agreement can be introduced in court without notorization. Very few written contracts are notorized. The question is- do you want to spend the money going to court to get $60.00? I don't know what small claims costs in Kentucky, but in Maryland where I practice it would cost well more than $60.00 including filing fees, service of process fees, and fees for execution of judgment.

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11 comments

Asker

Posted

i went to the sheriff here in my town and he said it would cost $30 to file for a small claims and $40 to serve her. He also said that if i won the case that she would have to pay the extra $70 plus the money she owes me. I dont want the money she owes me anymore, i want my dog back My family member said she called the courthouse and they said it had to be notarized and she talked to a paralegal and they said they same thing? she could be lying and just saying that but i wasnt sure and i didntno what to do.

Robert L Mauro

Robert L Mauro

Posted

I can only speak from my experience as a former General Counsel to several corporations where I dealt with contracts daily. I have never seen a court base its ruling on whether or not a contract has been notarized. Kentucky may be different. The court clerk and the paralegal may be saying that the Summons and Complaint must be notarized. Getting the dog back may be difficult. The family member made partial payment and then gave the dog to another family member. You will have to decide whether you want to jump through those kinds of hoops to get the satisfaction you desire. Good Luck.

Asker

Posted

I would just rather the dog not go to a home with people like that. But is it true that if i win my case then she would have to pay for it all?

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

I agree with Attorney Mauro. I do not think you have the right to get the dog back, but I think you have a decent shot at the money she owes, plus the court costs. Based on your facts, I do not think a judge will have much sympathy for her. You should also keep in mind that courthouse personnel are not allowed to give out legal advice. Your family member is not being honest with you.

Asker

Posted

I didnt think she was telling me the truth, I just think that she is saying that so i wont take her to court. Im not really the type to do this and start drama, i personally just want this over with. I offered her brother to just pay me $40 but he wont do that either. So im not being totally negative about this i was trying to work out a deal. The sheriff also told me that I could just go to their house and get the dog, but im not the kind of person to do that. I just need some full advice on what should i do about everything and how should i do it?

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Looking at the big picture here, I guess it depends on how important the relationship is to you. I agree that she is just trying to talk you out of going to court. I think you are well within your rights to take her to court, and I think that your action is against her, and not necessarily against the brother. But I could also see her giving the dog to her brother just to try to throw you off. If the sheriff is willing to go to the brother's house with you to take the dog, then that would be a great way to proceed. But that may not end this. It will definitely have an effect on your ongoing relationship with them. I think you have an excellent chance of winning in court, but if you would rather have the dog back, then I would see if you can get the sheriff to help you on this. If you tried to do it on your own, I think you would be setting yourself up for problems.

Asker

Posted

Since this whole situation, we dont have any kind of relationship. We never really had one in the first place. Shes more of a 3rd cousin or something like that. I was told that she gave her brother the dog because she could no longer keep him. But when she gave the puppy to her brother she knew that he wasnt fully paid for. And i asked the sheriff if he could go over there and get the dog and he said himself personally no, i asked if he could go with me but im not sure he quite understood what i was asking. I dont want to go to their property and them get me for trespassing or something. I also want to ask, she said that i "forged" her signature, which i didnt, what should i do about that? You can see that our hand writing is very different. And i also have messages maybe like 2 days before the 20th just to see if she was still paying and she said yes. So wouldnt that prove anything?

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

I do not think you would have trouble winning this one in small claims court. What is she going to say? You agreed to give her the dog and then you forged the agreement later to coerce/fraudulently force her to pay? I do not think a judge is going to buy that. If you want to get the dog back, that is a harder one. You definitely should not go there by yourself, as you are not entitled to "self help." But if the sheriff is willing to go there with you, based on the documentation you can provide, then I think they are likely to turn the dog over. The brother may not have any legal right to the dog. He did not buy it. So you can likely win a court case against the sister. That will get you your money, plus some extra for your costs, if it is worth it to you to take her to court. The second part of that will be that you could win in court and still not be able to collect against her, if she is uncollectible. But that is another issue completely. If it were me, I am not sure I would bother for $60. Shame on her. But if it is a question of getting the dog back, then if you can find a way to do that legally, then that might well be worth it. I would see what the sheriff recommends. It sounds like you have a rapport with him.

Asker

Posted

i just went and found the messages where she says that she will pay me the $60 like we agreed, so that proves her wrong on where she was lying to me and saying that we agreed on $40 and i just wanted more in the end, right? And i also have text messages from her saying that she doesnt mind signing the papers and that she will pay for him. I believe that I could win, cause i have alot of stuff on her. Im not sure if shes collectable! Her bf has a job and she gets about $200 in child support every month. I dont want to take her, but at the same time i do. Just to let her know that she cant, well shouldnt, treat people like that or do them that way. I just wanted to see if i was able to win. Cause if im not able to win my money back then there wouldnt be any use in me trying, id just end up losing more money. But if she has to pay the $30 and the $40 for the filing and serving plus the $60 she owes me then that would be worth it to me. Im not really a person who gets involved with the police, law or court so i dont know anything about how things work.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

I think this is certainly "winnable", as long as you can collect from her. I do not know that you could collect against the child support. You would need to contact a collection attorney about that. If there are other assets, then that is a different story.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Also...if you go to the courthouse, they can provide you with the small claims forms.

Posted

I agree with Attorney Mauro. There is no requirement that a contract be notarized, in order to be enforceable. If your family member denies the signature in court, it will depend on who the judge believes. I think that based on the facts you have stated, you have a very good chance of winning a small claims action. The practical problem will be collecting that judgment. The family member may not be collectible. If she cannot pay you $60 for your puppy, how are you going to collect a judgment? I am also not sure it is worth the time and hassle to take her to court for $60. Even if you can collect court costs, as well, you are still talking about at least a couple hours worth of time and the stress of dealing with the court. I would personally rather have the dog.

James Frederick

I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.

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2 comments

Asker

Posted

i would rather have the dog then the money. The sheriff said i could go get him, and i told the sheriff that she had paid me $40 but hasnt paid the rest. He just said that him, himself could not go get the job. Then as i was walking out and was outside, he came out to tell me that i could go over there myself and try to get the dog. He just couldnt go get it for me. I know where the dog is at, its at her brothers grandmas house and that woukd be me bringing her into this also, and id rather not. And im not into violence and fighting and im afraid that woukd happen if i went over there.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

You definitely do not want any part of self-help on this. That could get YOU into trouble.

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