As a nation of animal-lovers, it is perhaps not surprising that
nearly half of us would be prepared to argue about custody of the
family pet in a divorce settlement, with 57% of women stating they
would be prepared to fight for their pet compared to only 37% of
Certainly, we have seen a distinct increase in the number of
disputes over pets over the last 5 years.
For many of us, pets are simply part of the family, for some,
the equivalent of a surrogate child. Disputes about their future in
a divorce settlement adds another layer of stress to an already
difficult time and can complicate divorce proceedings (in some
instances bringing them to a standstill and resulting in costly
legal bills). In the vast majority of cases, unlike other assets,
they are worth very little, and in fact will end up costing their
eventual carer money in terms of vets bills, food and
Pets as property
Where couples cannot reach an agreement, they should be aware
that in UK law pets are regarded as chattels or property. Like
every other aspect of the divorce process, it is always better to
try and reach an agreement outside of Court, rather than risk an
expensive and protracted legal hearing to determine who will
eventually keep the family pet.
In cases where no agreement can be reached, it's reassuring
to know that although pets are akin to property in the eyes of the
law, in practice most UK Courts will take a much more pragmatic and
intelligent view and try to make sure the pet stays with the person
who has cared for it most in the past, and is best set up to look
after it in the future. The position may only differ if the animal
has considerable financial value or earning power, for example a
breeding pedigree dog, or a race horse.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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