What will happen to our family pets in the divorce?
13 May 2020 by Charlotte Knappett
We develop a deep love and connection with our pets. Most will say they are part of the family. They can offer comfort and unconditional love in the most difficult times. It is understandable that pressing concerns on divorce are often “what will happen to our family pet(s)?”, “who will they live with?”, “how often will they see each person?”, and “how will it affect the children?”
Most pet owners will expect that pets are more important than an inanimate object in the eyes of family law? Sadly not. The law applied by the Courts in England and Wales is that a pet will be treated as something called a “chattel” which is an item of personal property like cars, jewellery or furniture. The court will not be prepared to spend great swathes of time, nor expect the parties to expend significant legal costs, in dealing with disputes about family pets.
When a dispute over family pets arises it can often come down to: who paid for the pet; in whose name was the pet registered; and how the pet’s needs were met financially.
If the pet was given as a gift, it could be argued that the gift cannot “be revoked”, i.e. taken back, but otherwise, a pet is generally treated as any other personal possession in dispute.
Often this approach may feel far from ideal and parties will look to alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation and collaborative family law, when deciding on what is best for their pet.
Considerations could be given to:
- How can each party realistically meet that pet’s welfare needs going forwards?
- Is shared care possible?
- The impact on any child of the family in relation to where the pet resides?
Perhaps a form of “care plan” can be agreed using alternative dispute resolution and written down so there is no confusion going forwards.
Please contact our family team if you would like further advice and assistance in relation to your separation, call 01206 700113 or email [email protected].