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Who keeps the Pet in a Divorce or Separation?

Who keeps the Pet in a Divorce or Separation?

People and pets Ending a marriage or a relationship can be an emotionally challenging experience. The division of assets is often one of the most contentious issues. We help mediate on the property, the savings, and who gets what.  But what about the family dog, or the cat that you have had for 10 years? Who keeps the Pet in a divorce or separation?

For many couples, pets are considered a member of the family and have a special place in their hearts.  When it comes to pets, for some, deciding who gets ownership can be just as difficult as deciding on child arrangements. So the big question here, is how do you decide who keeps the pet in your divorce or separation?

In this blog, we will explore this question, and what factors are considered when making this decision. Ultimately, it will depend on a variety of elements, and each case will be unique.

If the Children live with me, do I automatically get ‘custody’ the Family Pet?

Pets can play an important role in a child’s life, providing companionship, comfort, and even therapeutic benefits.

Little girl and dogChild arrangements can potentially impact which parent keeps the pet in a divorce, particularly if the pet has a strong bond with one or more of the children. In some cases, the pet may have been a significant source of emotional support for the children, and separating them from the pet could be detrimental to their well-being.

The goal should be to create a plan that is in the best interest of both the child and the pet. Take time to carefully consider all factors and work with your ex to develop a plan that meets everyone’s needs. This way you can ensure a smooth transition for your family and your furry friend.

Consider who has been the primary caregiver: If one parent has been primarily responsible for caring for the pet, it may be in the best interest of the pet to keep the pet with that parent.

Think about the living situation: Consider each of your living situations and whether it is suitable for the pet. For example, if one parent lives in an apartment that has restrictions on pet ownership, it may not be feasible for them to take full ownership of the pet.

Listen to your child’s preferences: If your child is old enough to express their preferences, listen to what they have to say about where the pet should live. While their opinion should not be the sole factor in your decision, it can be a valuable piece of information.

Develop a visitation plan: If the pet is not able to live with one of you, consider developing a visitation plan that allows you both to spend time with the pet on a regular basis.

Put the needs of the pet first: Remember that pets have their own needs and should be placed in a home where they will be well cared for and loved.

What if we don’t have children?

Man and dog. Family Pet.For many people, their pets are more than just animals; they are treasured members of the family. This is especially true for those who do not have children, as pets can fill the void and become like children to them.

‘Fur-Babies’ can provide a sense of companionship, comfort, and purpose, and can be a source of joy and fulfillment in their owners’ lives. As a result, deciding who gets to keep the pet when you separate can still be a challenging and emotional decision.  Here are some things to take into consideration:

Who originally acquired the pet: If one of you acquired the pet before the relationship started, they may have a stronger claim to ownership.

Who is best able to provide for the pet: Consider each person’s living situation, financial resources, and ability to care for the pet’s needs, including veterinary care and daily exercise.

The pet’s preference: While pets cannot express their preferences in the same way that children can, it may be worth considering which person the pet seems to have more of a bond with or is more comfortable around.

Emotional attachment: Pets can be a source of comfort and emotional support, so it’s important to consider each person’s attachment to the pet and how it may impact their well-being.

In the absence of any formal agreement, however, the decision as to ‘who gets the pets’ may not be clear cut. This type of dispute is likely to be determined by proof of ownership or evidence as to the ‘main owner.’ – DFA Law


If you are unable to come to a decision on your own, you may want to consider using a mediator or seeking legal guidance to help you find a resolution that works for both parties and the pet.

Remember that both parties will need to agree on the outcome for any plan to be successful.

Why Mediation?

Family Mediation can be a valuable tool for couples who want to work together to find a solution that works for everyone. When it comes to a beloved family pet, family mediation can be particularly useful because it allows the couple to have a more flexible and personalized agreement.

You can work together to develop a plan that outlines each party’s responsibilities and rights regarding the pet, such as ownership, visitation, and financial support.

If you are unable to reach an arrangement between yourselves or through a platform like family mediation, then take a look at our 11 ways to resolve a dispute on divorce or separation.

The law views pets as property, and therefore, they are subject to the same marital law as any other asset. They would fall under a group of assets called chattels. In the context of family law, chattels can include assets such as jewelry, artwork, and other personal possessions acquired during a marriage or relationship – including pets.

 “The law is clear about who owns a family pet. It is classed as chattel, i.e. an item of personal property, and, technically, the person who bought the animal and to whom it is registered will keep it. The only exception is if there is clear evidence that the animal was subsequently gifted to the other party.” Stowe Family Law

In conclusion

Mum Daughter and DogIt is important to remember that when making decisions about your pet in a divorce or separation, the focus should not be on what you want or how your pet makes you feel, but on what is best for the animal.

Pets rely on their owners for love, care, and protection. Their welfare should be a priority in any arrangement. By putting aside personal emotions and working together to create a plan that prioritizes the well-being of the pet, both parties can ensure that their beloved companion is well taken care of and can continue to thrive in a loving home.




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