Arbitration/Mediation/Boat Ownership


I had recently used my money to buy a boat and my boyfriend who did not pay anything for this boat, asked if he could get the boat in his name, so that next time he tried to get a loan he would have collateral to get it, so I let him put his name on the title. Well our relationship is not looking so good and he says that it is his boat because it is in his name, but I paid for it and I can prove that I took cash out of my bank account the same day we obtained the boat and the title. I have bank statements and a receipt showing that I pulled out of my account the same amount of money used to purchase the boat, not to mention that I was present when we purchased the boat. If I leave this relationship will I be able to take my boat with me? Even if the boat title is in his name, but I paid for it, is there anything I can do legally to keep my boat, being that his name is on the title but I was the one who paid for the boat.

Thank you for your question!

If you have looked at some of my previous answers you may know that I always advise questioners that mediators act as neutral third parties to disputes and never "get involved" in judging the merits of conflict, but merely use special techniques to help the parties decide how to negotiate their own settlement.

I am not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice but can respond from my mediation, management and consulting experience.  Note that this issue may certainly develop legal ramifications and you may wish to consult an attorney.

In my experience, once property is titled the law will presume that the titled person is the owner.  The title can be changed at the department of motor vehicles if the title is signed over to you, with a small fee, and most likely an explanation as to why the title is changing and there is not a purchase or other taxable transaction occurring.  

If the person on title refuses to sign, your only recourse may be to seek a court order to gain formal ownership and title.  You would certainly need to be represented by an attorney.  

Go see a lawyer.  The local Bar Association usually has a referral service that will give you access to an attorney for free.  

Once you understand where you are and how you got there you are then in a position to decide how to proceed.

I would advise you to proceed as fast as you can.  The legal owner can sell the property, adn if this happens, your only recourse would be to sue the boyfriend, who may have already spent the money and have nothing even if you win a judgment.    

These are some ideas.  Feel free to follow up with additional questions.

For your general information, the pros and cons of the types of dispute resolution methods follows.


Arbitration, Mediation, and Litigation

Arbitration: the referral of a dispute to one or more impartial persons for final and binding determination outside of the judicial system

Benefits of Arbitration:

Confidential, no public record
Limited exchange of documentation, information
Quick, don't have to wait for a court date
Arbitrators have expertise in the subject matter and are trained in conflict resolution
Cheaper than litigation
Preserves business relationships

Negatives of Arbitration

It's often a compromise, no 100% winner
Complex arbitration can be costly
If not satisfied, may litigate the arbitration procedure
Poor results with an unskilled arbitrator
Both parties must agree to cooperate in the process

Mediation: the process by which parties submit their dispute to a neutral third party (the mediator) who works with the parties to reach a settlement of their dispute.

Benefits of Mediation:

Neutral mediator can objectively suggest alternatives not considered before
Parties are directly engaged in negotiating the settlement
Can be quicker than litigation
Less costly than litigation
Preserves business relationships
85% of American Arbitration Association cases mediated find successful solutions

Negatives of Mediation

may not reach a binding decision
unskilled mediator

Litigation: using the judicial system to resolve disputes

Benefits of litigation:

a clear winner and loser
uses a prescribed set of procedures
more predictable outcomes
is final

Negatives of Litigation:

waiting for court dates can do more harm
usually more expensive than mediation and arbitration
part of the public record  


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Timmy Chou


I am a experienced Mediator and a partner in a management consulting firm. As a mediator I work as a third-party neutral and specialize in partnership/shareholder disputes, management/labor issues, company culture difficulties, and family-owned business problems. I can help describe why alternative dispute resolution may be a good choice for you. As an experienced management consultant I may be able to offer creative ideas to help resolve your organizational and business problems and disputes. "If you say conflict, I say opportunity".

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