How is the ownership of a pet decided in the breakdown of a relationship/divorce?

Dealing with finances in divorce proceedings is usually the most contentious aspect of a divorce and, some may say, the most important. However, how is it decided who owns a beloved pet and with whom the pet will live, once a couple are divorced?

There are almost as many pets in the UK as there are people, and it’s believed that £7m a year is spent on our pets. In English law, a pet is seen as an item, a ‘thing’ or a chattel that will be owned by one party or the other. In divorce proceedings (or civil partnership dissolution), a judge would have discretion as to who should own the pet. However, when the couple are not married or in a civil partnership, the ownership of the pet will be determined by investigating who actually owns the pet. The Court will look at who paid for the pet, who pays the pet’s vet fees, if the pet is registered at the Kennel Club in whose name it is registered in and who is responsible for payment and arrangement of the insurance for the pet. It will also be taken into consideration who walks and feeds the pet and generally cares for them. One thing to bare in mind is that original ownership of the pet is not decisive, for example if one party purchased the pet, but the other party has taken full responsibility for the care of the pet, the ownership of the pet can change.

The ownership of our beloved pets can also be protected in a Cohabitation Agreement or a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. This may be appropriate if one party owned the pet prior to the relationship or marriage. If a pet is not purchased at the time a Cohabitation Agreement or Pre-Nup is entered into, the parties can address the issue of ownership of any future pets and so both documents could still be appropriate.

If you would like to protect the ownership of your own pet, as well as your finances, in anticipation of a new cohabiting relationship or marriage, please get in touch with a member of our specialist family team who are offering a fixed fee appointments and would be happy to assist you.

Contact the Family Department on 01702 662963 / 020 35537115 01277 889193  01268 855679.