The Final Furlong

In this blog, we take a look at how equine interests are dealt with during divorce proceedings.

As family lawyers, we are used to dealing with negations over pets during divorce proceedings.  Who gets to keep Fido or Mog is now a common question that we have to answer.  However, the recent high profile divorce of showjumpers Athina Onassis and Alvaro Affonso de Miranda Neto has brought the subject of how horses are viewed in a marriage breakdown to the attention of divorce lawyers.

In this particular case the horse in question, Cornetto K, was previously ridden by Mr de Miranda in the Rio Olympics in 2016.  It was of particularly high value (rumoured to later have been sold for £10 million). Clearly divorce cases involving horses of this importance and value do not crop up every day, but the legal issues raised are applicable to all case involving equine interests.

As with all divorces, Courts look at a variety of factors when assessing how to divide up marital assets.  They will always look at a what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances and look to preserve the status quo for the parties as much as possible.

So, if you are a wealthy family with a long history of owning a number of horses, the Courts may consider it fair and reasonable to accommodate the continuation of that activity.  The costs involved in that activity will be considered to be ‘normal’ expenditure that the couple are used to.  This of course is only the case if there are sufficient funds available to continue to finance the equine interest.

But what about less high value cases, how would the Court deal with those? Well, where there are less funds floating around to be divided between the parties, the Courts seriously have to consider the impact that a horse has on the available resources.  Those of you that keep horses will know that it’s not cheap.  If family resources are tight, the Courts may consider that for one party to retain an interest in a horse post-divorce is an expensive luxury.   This is particularly so when balancing it against the needs of children that take centre stage during divorce proceedings.

Of course, with divorce can come suspicious minds and the fear that one party may not be disclosing all assets within which they have an interest.  The Courts at all times have the power to make orders for disclosure and these can be directed to third parties as well as the non-disclosing party including trainers, banks and agents where necessary to establish whether the non-disclosing party has an interest in a particular horse or horses.  Equine value can be a difficult thing to assess so independent experts can be brought in to assist.  Parties also need to bear in mind that equine value can decrease in the future so that this can be taken account of in the settlement, particularly where parties are dealing with a 50/50 split and the horse makes up a substantial part of one party’s share.

A further consideration in a divorce settlement involving horses (or indeed any pet) is ongoing costs of care.  This is often forgotten about in the battle over custody but should not be dealt with as an afterthought, especially given the costs involved.   Whilst Courts will often be reluctant to give a precise valuation for ongoing care costs, the costs are mentally factored in when calculating the couple’s assets ahead of division.

At Sherrey and Associates we have experience of helping clients negotiate settlements involving pets and horses.  For help and advice about how your divorce could affect your ownership, please do give us a call to have a free, no obligation chat on Worcester 01905 349217 or Wolverhampton 01902 302969 or alternatively, take a look at our website here .