Equestrian Divorce

It’s not unusual for affluent rural families to have equine interests and often rural family homes come with stabling and other horse related facilities. Keeping the horses and ponies on divorce can be high on the agenda of those who like equestrian activities, or who have children who do, and the desire is usually to retain the property and the horses. However this is not always realistic as the starting point for dividing assets is 50/50 and this will include the family home. Unless the other party can be adequately compensated it is inevitable that the family home has to be sold. Horses have to be placed in livery or found facilities elsewhere.

In deciding on the terms of a suitable financial settlement the court must consider the needs of both parties, placing the interests of children at the top of the list. However meeting their interests will rarely include their desire to ride or be around horses. The top needs are somewhere to live, income to feed, clothe and provide for them, and, if funds allow, to continue their private education. Standard of living is a factor that a  court can take into account but is rarely able to. Funds to provide for one family living in one property altogether are often insufficient to go around two homes. For this reason standard of living is disregarded. However, if there are sufficient funds and assets to enable children to continue with equestrian activities, those activities would be something a court could provide for in the financial settlement.

Assuming the capital assets are great enough, a spouse who wishes to remain in a property with equestrian facilities may be able to do so. The other party might receive equal capital from other assets or potentially there could be a set-off against pension. However a further factor for consideration would be any mortgage outstanding on the property. A spouse receiving pension rather than immediate capital will usually have to take out a large new mortgage to buy a property for him or herself. It will often be impossible to service the mortgage on the former family home as well. Unless the remaining spouse has sufficient income to meet the mortgage payments and satisfy the lender that he/she can do so it may be inevitable that the family home will have to be sold. This releases capital to purchase a smaller, less costly property and facilitates the other spouse in raising more finance to purchase his/her own home.

Nicola Furmston is a solicitor and head of the Family team at Barker Gotelee.

Family Solicitors in Ipswich – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk

This article was previously published in the East Anglian Daily Times on Saturday 18th August 2018.