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Woman's divorce deal includes maintenance for horses

A British appeals court has upheld a lower court decision awarding a woman £50,000 a year maintenance to help in the care of her three horses.
The total settlement is about £1.5 million.

The wife had argued her that she would need to spend £900,000 to £1.25 million or more for a suitable property with enough land to cater for her horses. This would have left her with limited income based on the interest earned on the balance.

Her husband, a London investment banker, felt she should have bought a £600,000 property without land and kept just one horse which she could have placed in livery. This would have left a considerably higher sum on which to earn annual interest for living expenses.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court that it was appropriate for the woman to seek out a £1m property suitable for her horses, effectively meaning the husband would have to pay more in maintenance.

The couple had been married for 11 years.

“During the marriage, the horses plainly played a major part in the wife's life with the consent and encouragement of the husband,” Mr Justice Mark Potter said in the appeals decision.

“All the more so, after she lost a baby in 2001 and the husband gave her a third horse (a foal), to celebrate their 10th Wedding Anniversary in 2004, to add to her own two horses, which she had bought herself for £20,000 out of a personal inheritance in order to develop her eventing.

“It was the husband's case that, on break up of the marriage, the horses were an unjustified extravagance and that the wife's housing needs could be properly satisfied by purchase of a house which had no facilities to keep horses for about £600,000, and that she should keep one horse only which could be put out to livery while she worked a full-time week.

“The wife, on the other hand … wished to keep her three horses. The husband conceded that, whether the wife had two or three horses, it was cheaper to keep them at home with a full-time groom than to put them out to livery.”

The case traversed the potential earning ability of the wife and the husband, who said in the foreseeable future may well leave his London job, and redundancy was a possibility.

The three judges who heard the appeal upheld lower court judge Michael Segal's original decision on maintenance and the division of the matrimonial assets.

As well as the lump-sum settlement which will enable the wife to buy the house and land and earn a modest annual income from interest, the husband is to pay £50,000 a year. This, together with £20,000 in interest and £12,000 from her job, will give her £82,000 a year – around the sum she says she will need to live each year and care for her horses.

Judge Segal had said in his lower court decision: “I do not think that this [is] one of those cases where the wife has to go out to work all the hours she can, or re-train for a job which she does not particularly enjoy, simply to lessen the burden on the husband.

“I think that for the next two or three years at least, and I can not look further ahead than that, she is entitled to share in the husband's success, and live as nearly as possible in the way in which she lived during the marriage.

“If at the end of two or three years, the husband has been made redundant, or has given up working in the City [London] because he cannot stand the pressure any more, then both of them will have to expect a reduced standard of living …

“The quality of life for both parties is an important consideration. While the husband works long, demanding – but rewarding – hours in the City, he is entitled to enjoy what he earns and live in a £900,000 flat in London but then, in my judgment, the wife is equally entitled to live in the house of her choice, with immediate access to her horses – which requires a few acres of land – rather than having them at livery.

“I think that a reasonable sum for her to spend on house and land would be £1 million. This would leave her with £400,000.00 to invest.”

Mr Justice Potter said the wife's case was that she should be permitted to keep up her lifestyle with horses so long as the husband's means permitted.

“The District Judge accepted the package put forward by the wife as constituting the fair solution, so long as the husband's income level was maintained.

“What the District Judge did not say, and it is important that the wife should appreciate this, was that, if the husband was made redundant or in fact acted upon his stated desire for an early retirement in two or three years time, it would be reasonable for the wife to continue to maintain her horses at his expense. On the contrary, in those circumstances they would become an unjustifiable extravagance.

“For my part, I would observe that the wife should realise that it would be both foolish and ill-advised not to start planning for her future now on the basis that, if the level of the husband's income drops substantially, and she wishes to retain her horses, she will need to devise her own ways and means of doing so out of her own earning capacity or her ability to exploit the property which she buys in order to retain them, whether by the supply of livery to others or by such other means as she can devise.”