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But what about the horse? 

But what about the horse? 

Posted by Melissa - April 05 2018

Family lawyers are regularly involved in helping divorcing couples put child care arrangements in to place following the breakdown of a marriage.  However, nowadays, family lawyers are also increasingly assisting clients with putting arrangements in place for the family pet.

Equestrianism is a popular past time for many people as it provides a healthy escape from the daily grind.  According to the 2015 British Equestrian Trade Association’s National Equestrian Survey, there were an estimated 446,000 horse-owning households in the country in 2015.  As with other family pets, the horse is an intrinsic part of the family unit.  However, the law does not align with the love and sentiment for the family horse, as the law in England and Wales regards pets as “chattels”; something to be divided up in the same way as other belongings, such as furniture, jewellery, art work etc.  It is therefore unsurprising that tension and dispute concerning what happens to the horse is becoming a central part of many divorces, particularly in those where there are no children of the family.

According to the statistics mentioned above, there remains a strong gender bias in the riding population, with women making up 74% of it in 2015.  In the world of divorce, this means that where there is a disagreement as to what arrangements should be made for the family horse, a husband will often find himself having to argue that retaining the horse is a luxury rather than a need, as is usually asserted by the wife.

If warring couples cannot agree what happens to the family horse between themselves, it is the job of The Family Court to decide what arrangements should be put in place, including who should pay for the upkeep of the animal.  In one significant case heard in 2008, the wife was ultimately awarded a £1.5m divorce package, which included £50,000 maintenance per year for her horses.

Disputes of this kind can lead to expensive and lengthy litigation.  One way of avoiding this is by entering in to a nuptial agreement (an agreement that provides how the marital finances are to be arranged during the marriage and on divorce) that includes the arrangements for the care and upkeep of the family horse.  Whilst many will consider a nuptial agreement as unromantic, they are wonderfully practical documents that can provide a strong foundation for the relationship, and avoid a bitter divorce battle in the event that the marriage does not endure.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your marriage and would like further advice, contact us today to arrange an initial consultation with one of our specialist family lawyers.

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