Horses and Divorce

Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that a horse will be awarded to a certain spouse upon a divorce. However there are a number of things a person can do to increase his or her chances in being awarded the horse upon a divorce.

Some kind of an agreement between the spouses at the time the horse is acquired is probably the best bet to ensure who gets it upon divorce. It can be in a Pre-Marital Agreement, Post-Marital Agreement or a Pet Ownership Agreement. By having agreed to the terms ahead of time it would be easier for a court to know what the parties’ intentions are.

Without such an agreement it is usually up to the parties to decide who will keep the horse. However some spouses may both want the horse, or may use it as negotiating leverage during a divorce which could lead to an ugly battle. Therefore it may very well end up being up to the judge to determine who gets ownership. The judge would have to hear various arguments at trial as to who should get ownership of the horse. Some things a judge might look for include:

  • Whether the horse was with a certain spouse prior to the couple entering into the relationship;
  • Who the horse would be better suited living with;
  • Who has the financial ability to care for the horse;
  • Who provided more day to day care for the horse prior to the separation;
  • Who showed the horse in events or used it for lessons;
  • Who spent more time with the horse; and
  • Who paid for most of the horse’s expenses.

Additionally, if there are minor children involved, the court may look to see if a child has a special relationship with the horse and therefore may award the horse to the parent having primary custody over the children.

At the end of the day it is up to the couple to decide who gets the horse, but if they cannot, then it is up to a person in a black robe. Fortunately, some states have enacted laws that hold a spouse cannot kill or sell a pet during the pendency of a divorce proceeding in case there is a disagreement as to who gets ultimate ownership of the horse.

About the Author

Peter Moustakis
Peter Moustakis is the Managing Member of Sowerby & Moustakis, PLLC with locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Peter has received an award related to estate planning, contributed to 2 family law publications and authored the book “Estate Planning and the Modern Family: Old School Meets New School. He is a former President, Vice-President, Secretary Treasurer and Education Coordinator of Business Networking International Commerce Connection in Wayland, MA. He is also the former vice chair of the animal law committee at the Massachusetts Bar Association and served on the New Hampshire Bar Association Ethics Committee. Peter believes that community service is important and has served on the Amherst town Ways and Means Committee for 4 years and was chair of the committee for 2 years.