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Question about legal ownership

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  • Question about legal ownership

    Hi everyone,

    I am not familiar with a lot of the equine legalities, so I thought I would ask here for input. There is a bit of a sticky situation going on with a girl I know (she is 18). This girl is leaving for college this summer and has 4 horses. Her father was somewhat involved in past years, but remarried and the father/daughter relationship has become strained in many ways. He does not help with support of the horses, and the girl is struggling to feed them while finishing high school and getting ready to go to college. Because of this, the daughter has planned to find them homes, as she is worried that they will not be cared for when she leaves.

    She is doing all that she can in the situation she is in to feed and care for the horses. Her horses are at home, where there is next to no grass and no shelter.

    I helped find a home for one of her horses at a nice lesson facility. The place has all of the essentials (shelter, good grass/hay, farrier/vet care, etc.). She then moved the horse on a trial basis (with her father's knowledge) and was so excited that her horse would get the attention and care. All was well, but about a day later, the father showed up to the farm and said he wanted his horse back. The girl wanted the horse to stay, as it would be a better home. This became a bit of a stand-off, so the sheriff was called. Both the father and daughter spoke to the county, who discussed ownership (talks about registration papers, etc.) which have the daughter's name as the recorded owner on every document. There is no bill of sale as the daughter has had the horse since it was 2 (now 11 years old). At this point, we believed that the girl would have the legal right to make these decisions. However, it was then said that she would have to appeal to the court to 'claim her property'. As the horses are on the father's property, this is where it gets tricky.

    I just feel bad for this girl and her horses. Her dad is trying to make a statement and control something he really doesn't care about. She just wants to make sure that her animals are loved and cared for, because her father really won't do what needs to be done when she leaves.

    Any ideas or help would be very appreciated.
    Dream Again Farm

  • #2
    As a general rule minors have limited property rights. During minority "their" property is often seen as being held "in trust" by the parent. The parent may sell, encumber, or otherwise buy and sell property for the minor. When minor reaches the age of majority the trust is ended by operation of law and the minor now has full property rights.

    With titled goods, like autos, this can create a problem. This problem does not seem to be the issue, here, as the horses are in the young lady's name.

    If she's an adult, now, it's highly probable that these horses are now hers. But I don't know VA law (if that's the state we're talking about). I only know what I was taught as a general principle and in the states where I was admitted to the Bar.

    She's going to have to talk to a local lawyer to get a definative answer.

    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão