For many couples who decide to take their relationship to the next level by moving in together, the step that follows is very often the purchase of a pet. This may be a precursor to the decision to have children. However the issue as to what happens to the pet if a couple subsequently decide to separate and ultimately divorce is becoming increasingly common.
Here we examine the issues to consider when going through divorce proceedings where a pet is involved. We also explain how the law in England and Wales currently stands in this area.
The law in England and Wales
The law as it currently stands in England and Wales treats pets as chattels; in other words, as items of personal property. However, pet owners would argue that there is a far more personal tie to an animal than to property or a piece of furniture. Consequently, disputes relating to pets as part of divorce proceedings are becoming increasingly common. In fact in some cases, where divorcing couples do not have any children, the pet or pets are regarded as the next best thing by the parties. As a result, arguments are routinely made by divorce lawyers to treat them as such and to take the feelings of the pet into account when deciding on ownership.
Key considerations with regard to pets and divorce
As with child custody arrangements, a number of arguments can be put forward with regard to pets. Primarily where the pet will live and with whom are invariably the key issues. It may be more awkward for the partner who leaves the marital home to take responsibility for the pet, especially if they don't know where they will be living in the long term.
A common arrangement, particularly where the couple also have children, is for the pet to remain in the family home if that is where the children will also be residing. Removing a pet in such circumstances could be traumatic for any children of the marriage.
The cost of keeping and looking after the pet will need to be factored into any financial settlement and good divorce lawyers will be able to make sure that this is included. Vet's bills will need to be considered, in addition to any routine expenses such as grooming and food. In reaching a financial settlement where a pet is involved, the value of the animal will also need to be considered, just as if it were a possession, in order to ensure that any long term settlement is fair to both parties.
If marital breakdown seems inevitable, always consult a reputable firm of family law solicitors who can represent you. This will serve to protect your position and to identify the best way forward in what is almost invariably a difficult and stressful situation.