John Oxley explains why disputes over horses can dominate high net worth divorces on TalkRadio

    On 27 December, Vardags barrister and strategy associate John Oxley spoke to Talkradio regarding the news that some divorcing couples are now reportedly more concerned over who gets ‘custody’ of their horse than what happens to the matrimonial home—a novel way of keeping oneself busy during the limbo that follows Christmas Day and precedes the new year.

    Citing a report that up to 1 in 15 breakups among wealthier couples involve dispute over who keeps the horse, host Martin Roberts appeared flabbergasted by the apparent scale of the phenomenon, yet John confirmed that horses are quite often a bone of contention in high net worth divorces.

    “It’s really not uncommon for this to be a big area of dispute…A top racehorse or showjumping horse can generate thousands in prize money, it can be used for breeding and what people don’t often realise is that horses are also exempt from capital gains tax in certain circumstances so it really can be a very valuable asset that both sides want to keep.”

    But it’s not just fights over who gets to keep the horse that can keep divorce lawyers busy; John pointed out that, due to the immense expense of a horse’s upkeep, one party may push for the other to give up their equine friend, should the former be expected to pay ongoing maintenance.

    Of course, a tug of war over family pets are not only rooted in financial concerns. As John put it:

    “Divorce is complex and emotionally wrought…and the big things—the house, the investments, what happens next-—is quite hard to get your head around, but fighting over the small items sometimes gives people an element of control over this very difficult process…It’s not just because these things matter to them a lot (and obviously pets do) but when everything else feels a bit out of your control it’s a chance to put your foot down and really exert what you want in that situation.”

    Find out more about how pets are treated in divorce cases here.