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  • Who Gets to Keep the Pets in a Divorce?
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Who Gets to Keep the Pets in a Divorce?

On the breakdown of a marriage the issue of who is going to keep the pet can often be a difficult one to resolve.

As a society we love our pets and the matter often needs to be dealt with sensitively and practically.

For some people a pet can be like a son or daughter to them and can be not only an integral part of family life but also a great source of comfort particularly at time of relationship difficulty and breakdown.

Statistics from the Blue Cross reveal that 4 pets a week are taken by the Blue Cross following relationship breakdown. Dogs and cats are the most fought after followed by horses, rabbits and then Guinea pigs.

Sharing a pet on divorce may not be practical and doesn't always work like the sharing of a child or children would.

Under the law in England and Wales pets are treated as a material possession, as a chattel much like a car or television.

On the breakdown of a relationship you need to try and look at what would be best for your pet. If you are not able to reach an agreement between yourselves then you could try mediation to resolve the dispute. If possible it is always better to resolve matters amicably. If you are not able to then an application may need to be made to the Court, within divorce proceedings for a Judge to decide.

In 2008 there was an unidentified case where the wife was awarded £50,000 per annum for the upkeep of her three horses that were a substitute during the marriage of 11 years for children.

The decision on who will keep the pet if the parties cannot agree is likely to be based on proof of ownership or evidence that one party was the main owner. Things like who bought the pet, who pays the insurance for it, the food etc will be considered.

If there are children and the pet was purchased for them then often the family pet will live with where the children live.

In 2017 Alaska became the first US state to pass a law which allowed family court Judges to deal with the issue of pets on divorce in a similar way to how children disputes would be resolved and will take into account the well being of animals when deciding which party should keep the pet.

In England and Wales you can deal with who will keep the family pet on a relationship breakdown in a pre/post nuptial agreement which can be entered into prior to or after the marriage and can set out the plans for the pet in the event that the marriage does not work. There is also a specific pet nuptial that you could enter into which sets out your agreement prior to the marriage and deals with what will happen to the family pet in the event that the relationship breaks down.

For all issues arising on the breakdown of a relationship please contact one of our experienced family solicitors.

For advice on Family Law issues, contact Gemma Purt.

Please read Reliance on information posted in our Terms of Website Use - see Legal section - before relying on this commentary.

Before relying on this commentary please read the Reliance on information posted section in our Terms of Website Use in our Legal section. Please note that specialist advice should be taken in relation to any specific queries and the information above is provided for general information purposes only.


Gemma Purt

Head of Department
Family Law


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