Financial settlements on divorce normally involve making financial provision for any children but, in a recent case, the ex-wife of a wealthy man successfully argued that her love of horses was sufficiently important to her that substantial maintenance should be payable for their upkeep.

The unnamed couple from Gloucestershire were childless and divorced after 11 years of marriage. The court heard that the wife had lost a baby in 2001 and regarded her three horses as substitute children. Her husband had bought her a foal as a tenth wedding anniversary present in 2004, when she already had two horses that she had purchased with her own money.

When the marriage broke up, the wife claimed that she required financial assistance in order to be able to keep and maintain her horses and for eventing. She argued that her husband’s past actions showed his awareness and understanding of the depth of her passion for horses.

The husband claimed that keeping three horses was an unnecessary extravagance and that his wife’s needs could be met by having a house worth £600,000 and one horse that was put out to livery.

In the Court of Appeal, Britain’s most senior family judge Sir Mark Potter stated that “during the marriage the horses played a major part in the wife’s life with the consent and encouragement of the husband.” The Court upheld the award made by District Judge Michael Segal of £80,000 a year maintenance, which included £50,000 for the upkeep of the horses plus £900,000 for a house with grazing land suitable for the animals.

Emotional ties to animals can be very strong. It remains to be seen how influential this decision will be on other cases involving animals.