Derbyshire Legal Talk: February 2009

PUBLISHED: 15:20 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:47 20 February 2013

Janet Riley

Janet Riley

Think you are in a stable relationship? On divorcing each party has competing financial claims, but would this include a horse? Nay, you might say, but this may not be the case ...

Section 23 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 enables the court to make an order that either party to the marriage shall make to the other for that party or for the benefit of a child such periodical payments, for such term, as may be specified in the order. There is definitely no provision that such provision should be made for a horse!
A recent case decided in the Court of Appeal provided that a wife whose love for horses during the marriage had been a prominent feature of the parties lives. The couple were married for 11 years and there were no children. The husband was employed in central London earning a salary of 110k p.a. plus bonuses of 106k p.a. The wife upon entering the marriage had given up her part time work in a PR firm to carry out part time book-keeping and interior decoration. The capital assets of the marriage amounted to 3 million in total plus pension of approximately 350k.
There was agreement that the capital assets be divided equally between them. The wife argued she should be able to rehouse in accommodation in Gloucester with enough land for her two horses and in so doing there would not be sufficient capital left to produce an income to meet her expenses, the shortfall was 44-56k p.a. which reflected a fair share of the husband's income including his bonuses.
The husband proposed there be a term of five years with the amount reducing over that time.
The court did not view the wife's budget to be unreasonable taking into account the high standard of living during the marriage and particularly bearing in mind the husband's budget to be in the region of 80k p.a.
The court has an overriding duty to consider a clean break and therefore how long those payments to the wife should continue for, to enable the wife to adjust without undue financial hardship. The husband had suggested he would be leaving his work in the city in two or three years and the court were unable to make a finding that he would and it would be unfair to the wife to make an order for periodical payments for a fixed term. The court therefore made an order for the life of the wife, as this was considered the fairest course.
This is an unusual order particularly where there are no children and sufficient available assets of the marriage to meet each of their reasonable needs, where one would expect there to be a clean break both of capital and income. The reasonable needs of the wife included sufficient accommodation for the two horses and the expenses arising therefrom!

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