Who Gets to Keep the Dog in Divorce?

31 October 2017

When a couple decide to get a Divorce, the decision about who gets to keep the dog can be a bone of contention. This can cause long and expensive disputes between the couple, and if an amicable agreement cannot be reached, then the Court will decide.

Main Considerations in a Divorce

Divorce proceedings are often made up of three distinct areas, namely:

  1. The divorce – which will legally end the marriage/civil partnership
  2. Children – parents will need to decide where the children will live and make contact arrangements for them to spend time with the other parent
  3. Finances – to determine how the family home and other matrimonial assets are to be divided.

Most people would acknowledge that the above areas will need to be established, however not all will realise that a decision will also need to be made in respect of the family dog. For some couples who don’t have children, this can become the main area of contention (dispute) in the divorce proceedings. Divorcing couples with children will sometimes link the pets to the primary home of the children, to minimise further distress.

How Does the Court Decide?

The relationships developed between owners and pets over the years is recognised by the Courts in England and Wales. However, pets are considered by the Court in the same way as real property. It would be each person’s responsibility to make their case that not only is their attachment to the pet considerable enough for the Court to resolve the issue, but also that their lifestyle after the marriage will allow them to the care for the pet in question.

Although there is no legislation to say how the Court will deal with dogs and other pets, it would seem that the primary concern of the Court is to establish who devoted more of their time to caring for the pet throughout the marriage.

Pets in Divorce - Outcomes of Previous Cases

Some of the outcomes of previous divorce cases include:

  1. Transferring ownership/pedigree from one person to the other
  2. The couple sharing custody of their pets
  3. The couple sharing maintenance costs for the pets.

Avoid Disputes with a Pre/Post Nuptial Agreement

Couples may wish to prevent any potential future disagreements relating to the ownership of the dog by choosing to enter into pre (or post) nuptial agreements. This document can then cover not only decisions relating to finances and children, but also establish what would happen with the family pets if the marriage was to break down in the future.

For additional information see Divorce with Kids, Who Gets the House?

More articles