What Happens to Pets in Divorce

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The coronavirus pandemic has seen an uptake in family pets, especially dogs. Unfortunately, it has also seen an increase in divorce at the same time.

This might leave you asking the question, who keeps the family pet in divorce?

Are Pets Considered Assets in Divorce?

Pets are considered property by the English and Welsh Courts, so they will be treated the same as items such as furniture when it comes to your divorce settlement.

Who Gets the Pets in Divorce?

As pets are treated as assets, the Court will apply the usual Section 25 factors it applies to the family home to determine who should be the pet’s rightful owner. Other factors include:

      • Who is the main carer of the pet?
      • The age of you and your former partner
      • Yours and your partner's finances
      • Whether the pet is used to help with a disability
      • Who pays for the vet and food bills
      • Who purchased the pet
      • Who is registered with the vet
      • Whether there is a Pet Nup
      • The name on the microchip

The Court won’t help you decide the contact arrangements for the pet like it would for children. You and your former partner will have to negotiate this outside of Court.

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What to Do with Your Pets in Divorce

1. Put Their Needs First

First, it’s important that you consider the needs of your pet and what is in their best interests. Your pet’s wellbeing should be the main focus of any future agreement.

For example, you should consider whether you have the space, capacity, flexibility, time and resources to care for your pet before making the custody arrangements.

2. Make Pet Arrangements with Your Ex

You should attempt to agree with your ex who should have custody of your pet, or if you’re going to share custody, what the pet arrangements should be.

You could come up with a schedule setting out when you each have contact with your pet, much like a parenting plan for children.

If you reach an agreement, you can either incorporate it in a Financial Consent Order if you’re getting a divorce or in a Separation Agreement if you’re not married.

3. Try Mediation

If you cannot agree the arrangements between you, you could try instructing a mediator to help you reach an agreement.

4. Get a Pet Nup

Why not get ahead of the game to save the costs of arguing over your pet later down the line?

I know how hard it can be if you’re arguing over your beloved pets in divorce, but you can avoid these kinds of arguments beforehand with a Pet Nup. It will almost definitely be better to address what will happen to your pets in separation before you separate, while there is no animosity clouding your judgment.

You can record the terms of ownership, custody and other arrangements for your pet in your ‘Pet Nup’, or you could incorporate arrangements for your pet in a more standard pre or postnuptial agreement.

'Pet Nups' and pre or postnups are not legally binding in England and Wales. But the Court will be guided by an agreement that has been properly entered into and it will be a major consideration for the Court in making its final decision if you divorce.

For advice on pets in divorce, or including your pets in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, just get in touch with our Family Law Solicitors for expert legal advice.

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