One of the most often asked questions in a divorce is who is going to keep the family pet, be it the family dog or other much loved family pet.   Sometimes it is obvious that one party wants to keep the pet and the other party does not, in that case it is very straight forward.  What happens however if both parties want to keep the pet themselves?

Ideally both parties should try and reach an agreement, perhaps even a shared care arrangement for the pet. Perhaps if the parties have children, then the pet stays with the children and whoever they are with?

But what happens if the parties simply cannot reach an agreement, what does the court do then? The court can only determine who owns the pet not what the arrangements should be.  The pet is considered a “chattel” of the marriage along with items of furniture etc. The court might simply look at who bought the pet, in whose name the pet is registered with at the vets or whose name is on the ID chip? That is unfortunately the sad reality of how the court views the much loved family pet.

Whilst the court can determine ownership and therefore who gets to keep the pet, the reality is that this is a very expensive way to resolve a dispute. However much you love your pet, and no price can be put on that, your solicitor will encourage you to reach an agreement and not incur costs arguing over chattels, which is unfortunately how your pet is seen by the court.  You would probably not spend money arguing about who keeps the sofa or the cooker and as can be seen the court would treat the pet in the same way.

It is always better to agree on all matters, such as the arrangements for the children, the financial settlement and the arrangements for your pet rather than fighting matters through the courts. The more money that is spent on fighting, the less money there may be at the end of the matter for you.

Once you have agreed the financial settlement and the arrangements for your pet, it is essential that a formal agreement is entered into to ensure that the arrangements are legally binding. It is a common misconception that a Decree Absolute ends everything, but it simply ends the marriage.  To dismiss the financial claims that have arisen as a result of the marriage a financial order is required otherwise those financial claims remain open.

For more information, or some preliminary confidential advice contact a member of our Family Team from your local office.

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