24 November 2022

Pets on Divorce

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Pets on Divorce

A relationship breakdown puts a lot of emotional strain on concerned parties. It requires dealing with many difficult, painful decisions like child custody, division of finances, and pet arrangements.

For some individuals, getting custody of a pet is a priority. A growing number of separating couples contact solicitors to settle pet ownership disputes and negotiate arrangements. With the rise in pet ownership, it is no surprise that couples are willing to battle lengthy and expensive disputes over the custody of the family pet.

Under English Family Law, the Court frequently makes decisions on child arrangements and financial settlements. At present, a pet is considered personal property or a chattel instead of as part of a family unit. As a result, not much attention is paid to pet custody and visitation arrangements.

How is Pet Custody Legally Decided After Divorce?

Largely, the English court expects the separating couple to mutually decide who gets pet ownership and arrangements relating to expenses.

However, if it is an important consideration and the court has to make a decision regarding pet custody, it is usually given to the person who owns the pet, has proof of ownership, and is registered as a pet owner at the vet’s.

It is possible for the court to consider the financial position of the parties involved, a suitable home for the furry friend, and living arrangements. When deciding ownership and access to the pet, the court will consider:

  • Who bought the pet and pays living expenses
  • The name of the person on the microchip or tags
  • Registration of the person with the vet
  • Who looks after the needs of the pet

This means the party that bought the pet will retain ownership unless it was gifted to them by another person. If neither party has proof of ownership, the court will decide whilst considering the best interests and welfare of the pet.

The court has the power to give sole custody to either party or shared custody to both parties.

Does the Couple Have to Go to the Court to Get Pet Custody?

It is rare for couples to move to court to get custody of the pet. There are other ways to fight these disputes without involving the courts, for instance, both parties can seek help from a family mediator to resolve pet disputes.

If mediation does not work, arbitration should be the next option to consider.


With the rise in pet ownership, there has been an increase in the use of petnups in the last few years. Many adults consider getting a petnup to avoid pet custody battles and access disputes in the future.

In order to avoid such disagreements in the future, the couple can draft an agreement called a petnup that outlines the care and living arrangements for the pet should the relationship break down.

It is advised that couples should enter into petnup agreements and try to resolve matters related to pet custody and access out of the court.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Connaught Law and authors accept no responsibility for loss that may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Connaught Law. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Connaught Law.

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