Paying for the upkeep of a horse is increasingly becoming a bone of contention for divorcing couples. There are around 446,000 horse-owning households in the country and three quarters of riders are female (962,000 women, 348,000 men).
"In divorce cases where a horse is involved, arguments often revolve around upkeep costs, which can run into thousands every year, as well as the ownership of the horse itself," says Lyn Ayrton of Lake Legal.
"The cost of maintaining horses was a significant factor in a newsworthy divorce case several years ago, which cast doubt over the right of wives to live off their former husband's wealth for life. In the majority of these cases, husbands see the horse as a luxury and not a necessity but the wife might hold a very different view, which is where problems can arise." In this particular case, the husband was made to pay the stabling costs for his wife's horse after a bitter divorce, but the decision was reversed later by an appeal judge who told his wife to get a job.
Paying for items such as livery forms part of the maintenance element of a settlement and can be a hefty proportion, especially when moderate incomes are involved. The whole area around horses and the associated costs adds to the income requirement. It boils down to whether or not there is the financial ability to cover reasonable needs and the court will take a view of what those needs are in each case.
It's different if the couple have always had horses and even stables of their own as it's then a much more integral part of their lives, and probably has been for some time. In cases like this, it's important to be both flexible and realistic. There then remains a chance that a horse can be kept, providing the costs are manageable.
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