Royal Ascot Week: What happens to the horses in a divorce?

Family - 3 minutes read

In some families, a horse is a  much loved member of the family and can be a valuable asset, so when a couple separate or divorce questions about who should retain the horse and/or how they should be maintained often arise. 

For Royal Ascot week the Family Team at Hedges have put together their thoughts on how horses are treated on divorce: 

How are horses treated on a divorce? 

    A horse would be treated as a chattel for the purposes of any divorce proceedings, and it would have to be disclosed like any other asset, even if its value is not significant.  

    If the value of the horse is thought to be significant, and not agreed between the parties, it might have to be valued by an expert in the same way a piece of art or jewellery might be. 

    Who will retain the horse? 

      In a lot of cases, one party has been more involved in the upkeep and riding of the horses and it is agreed which of them should retain the horses after they divorce.  

      Generally the courts are reluctant to engage in disputes regarding chattels,  including horses, and parties are encouraged to reach an agreement between themselves. However, if it cannot be agreed who should retain the horse, and the court has to decide, the court may look at who bought the horse, who has been responsible for its upkeep and whose home is best set up to look after it when making a decision.

      In some cases, a divorcing couple may own a valuable horse as part of a syndicate, and may agree to continue to co-own the horse under the terms of the syndicate following their divorce. In other cases, it may be possible for the couple to continue to share the horse, and to enter into an agreement in respect of this to set out the financial and practical arrangements going forward. 

      How will the court approach the maintenance of the horse?

      It is of course expensive to keep a horse,  and therefore the issue of who should continue to fund its upkeep following a divorce, and whether this is a “reasonable need”,  can be contentious. 

      Sometimes one party will be seeking for the upkeep of any horses to continue to be financed by the other party, as part of their overall claim for spousal maintenance, and often this may also include a claim for any horses ridden by the children of the family to be funded as well. 

      In such situations, the court will have to consider the overall matrimonial pot and undertake a balancing exercise to see whether the cost of the upkeep of the horses is reasonable within the context of the lifestyle enjoyed by the parties during the marriage and available financial resources. Each case will be determined on their own facts, and such an award is only likely to be made where there are significant financial resources available. 

      How does a horse impact housing needs?

      The issue of who retains the horses could also impact the future housing needs of the parties, as whoever keeps the horses will need appropriate facilities and grounds to do so. As above, the court will have to consider whether these additional housing costs are reasonable within the context of the marriage and financial resources available, and such an award would only be made where there are significant financial resources available to meet these needs. 

      Can horses be covered in a prenuptial agreement?

      Like any valuable asset, what should happen to any horses in the event of a divorce could be covered in a prenuptial agreement. As such, if any couple are entering into a prenuptial agreement they should ensure it covers who retains the horses, and also how they should be maintained. 

      If you have any questions about how your horse may be treated on divorce, please contact a member of the Family team at Hedges.