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What about the dog?

This is often a question we are asked and the court is asked to deal with within divorce proceedings.  It can be a bone of contention between parties. (No pun intended!)  Pets are commonplace in UK households and often regarded by the parties as “one of the family”.  But what is the position in law?

Under English law pets are considered as chattels which means they are considered as property much like a car, jewellery or furniture.  This means that purchase and registration of the dog are often considered in determining a dispute as to who should keep the family pet.  There are other factors that can be relevant to consider such as:-

Who is the primary carer?; Who buys the pet food and pays the vets bills?; Is there a pre-nup and what are its terms?; What are the financial positions of the parties?;.  The section 25 criteria of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 will need to be considered in determining the issue within a divorce.

Practical issues will also need to be considered.  It can be costly to enter into a dispute about a pet and the collaborative law approach may assist with this.  Alternatively, mediation may be an option to resolve the issue by agreement to avoid escalating costs.  The law will determine the issue based on property entitlement, not based on a shared care type arrangement  as with children and this will need to be negotiated between the parties outside of court.

For more advice and assistance on these or any other family issues, please do not hesitate to contact our Family Team.