When going through a divorce or separation, it can be a difficult time for all involved. This may include any children, extended family and can even extend to any pets that are owned by the couple. Pets are often viewed as part of the family and it can be a harrowing decision to make when deciding who will keep and look after them. Here I look at what happens to pets during divorce and how to approach negotiations with your ex-partner about who will keep and look after any pets.
Firstly, it’s important to look at the legal view of pets from a relationship. A pet is a ‘chattel’ in English Law like furniture or cars, but is a living thing that needs to be taken care of. The court does not generally make orders about who will keep a pet, so it is important for couples to come to an agreement between themselves. In a divorce the court can make orders for the transfer of chattels which would include pets. This is done by a property adjustment order. Where the parties are unmarried the ownership will often determine what happens to the pet.
The first step to take when deciding who will keep a pet is to discuss it with your partner. You can both explain why you feel you should be the one to keep the pet and come to an agreement. If you can’t reach an agreement, you could consider mediation with your family law solicitor, who can help you negotiate an agreement.
If you and your partner are unable to come to an agreement about who should keep the pet, you could consider splitting the care of the pet. This can be done by sharing the costs of looking after the pet, such as vet bills, or by arranging for the pet to stay with each of you for different times. This can provide a good balance for the pet, but it is important to remember that splitting care of a pet will require a lot of communication and flexibility from both partners. Furthermore, depending on where you will both live following the separation and the distance between your homes, this may or may not be logistically possible.
When deciding who will keep a pet during a divorce, it is important to think about the welfare of the pet. Try to consider what will work best for the pet, as well as for you, your partner and your family. If you are unable to come to an agreement, it is best to seek the assistance of a family law solicitor who can help you negotiate an agreement which is fair and in the best interests of the pet.
Anthony Jones is Head of Family Law and is a Resolution Accredited Specialist. For more information or a second opinion, please contact him on 01457 761320 or email firstname.lastname@example.org