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How are pets dealt with by the Courts upon divorce or separation?

Whilst there is legislation and regulation protecting animal’s rights, for example against cruelty; they are not necessarily considered in the same way by the UK Courts when a marriage breaks down upon the divorce or separation of a cohabiting couple.

Financial costs of a pet following a divorcePets

Although many of us would consider our pets part of the family, upon divorce, pets will be considered as chattels like household contents such as a car or jewellery. In certain circumstances, the court when considering a spouse’s income needs may order spousal maintenance by taking into account the pet’s upkeep and costs. They may be considered as part of the overall financial settlement between the parties when a marriage breaks down.

What factors will be taken into account?

If a cohabiting couple separate, then the court could make a decision based upon who paid for such pet and you will need receipts/invoices to support this.

Whilst each case is different the factors the court may consider are as follows:

  1. Who purchased the pet?
  2. The value of such pet?
  3. Whose name is registered on the microchip?
  4. Who is the registered with the vet?
  5. Who pays the vet fees, insurance and upkeep?
  6. Who is the main carer of the pet?

Welfare and wellbeing of family pets following a divorce

The difficulty with such an approach is that no regard is taken into account of the emotional feeling parties attach to their pets; a lot of people treat their pets like their own children. The issue of the welfare of the pet should be given greater weight when considering which party is best suited to care for the pet.

Whilst the US courts are beginning to consider the “wellbeing,” of the family pet when considering who keeps the pet.  The UK courts are slower to adopt such an approach and prefer to spend the court time dealing with financial and children matters as part of the breakdown of a relationship.

Sadly, there is currently no precedent or rule in the UK which takes into account the pet’s welfare upon divorce or separation, but things may change in the future.

For further help and advice please contact Pavinder Khela at Hegarty Solicitors, Stamford on 01780 750956 or email pavinder.khela@hegarty.co.uk.

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