In Pennsylvania, a divorcing couple must “equitably distribute” all property acquired during the marriage. This law splits the property fairly, not necessarily in half. When there are assets that are high-value animals, the situation can be complicated.

Why should you hire an appraiser?

If the value of a horse exceeds $5,000 the IRS might require an appraisal for your tax and divorce purposes. It could also significantly impact what you are entitled to and what you owe in your divorce.

It might seem like a cost-effective option to hire one appraiser for your horse(s). Appraisers are bound a code of ethics set by the American Society of Equine Appraisers. However, professional opinions may differ. Two professionals within Pennsylvania could come to significantly different values.

All equine appraisers look at the following in a horse:

  • Disposition
  • Certified or uncertified pedigree, including offspring
  • Show or racing record, awards, prizes
  • Physical traits
  • Statements from trainers and veterinarians

If either spouse hires their own appraiser, you might be able to contest the other appraiser’s findings. Your legal counsel might have a list of trusted appraisers or horse experts to contact who can provide these services. This might help you avoid paying more than you owe.

What else could complicate the situation?

Part of an equine appraiser’s job can be to verify the horse’s pedigree and register their offspring. If the horse belonged to one spouse before the marriage, but the horse was bred during the marriage, is the offspring considered marital property? What about the value of embryos or stored sperm?

If you will split the value of the horse, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. Where will the horse live? Who will care for it?

If you have children, do they ride the horse, and will they continue to do so? Are they minors or young adults? Is the horse just their pet or do they compete in shows? The answers to these questions could affect child support, child custody and even alimony payments.

It might seem like a chore and a waste of resources to hire a second appraiser. In the bigger picture of your divorce, however, it could have a great effect on the value of your assets and your child’s happiness.