Who will your family pet live with if you separate?

Whilst most people will have some idea as to what is likely to happen to their assets if their relationship breaks down, it is often less clear what will happen to the family pet.

With the rise in media coverage of celebrity breakdowns and a focus on loved pets this has become a more commonplace concern for clients.

If you are thinking of getting a pet then you may wish to consider getting a pet-nuptial which will set out the arrangements for your pet in the unfortunate circumstance of your separation.

Indeed, according to research by the Blue Cross, 4 pets a week are taken into their care following the breakdown of a relationship. Clearly this is something which you would seek to avoid and there needs to be discussion and hopefully agreement.

What happens however if this cannot be achieved and legal help is required?

Although a family pet is a well loved member of a family the position in law is less sympathetic and a pet would be deemed to be a “chattel” in the same way as furniture within the family home.

Deciding what will happen to your family pet is an important decision to be considered, as clearly, they will mean more to you.

If parties are unable to decide who is to care for the family pet following a relationship breakdown then there are a number of factors which solicitors would take into consideration:

1) Who paid for the pet originally and who has paid for its upkeep to include veterinary bills, feed, insurance etc. As a pet is classed as a “chattel” then ownership would arguably lie with the person who purchased the pet.

Unfortunately, this would be considered key above other contributions of a financial or other nature, including who has been primarily responsible for the daily care of the pet and who took them out for those long, lonely walks in the rain and snow!

2) However, a pet is a living thing and consideration also needs to be given to the ongoing welfare of the pet such as it’s future accommodation and that of the parties involved. A dog, for example, will ideally need a garden.

Work commitments are also relevant ie is one party going to be away on business or working long hours where they cannot commit to caring for a pet on a daily basis.

3) If there are children in the relationship who are attached to the family pet then consideration would also be given as to the impact on the children if the pet was removed from their home

Some couples agree that a pet should have a “shared care arrangement”. Whilst this works with some animals, consideration needs to be given as to how this will impact upon the pet.

Will there be an impact, for example, of moving between two homes with freedom being curtailed, and would a pet suffer from separation anxiety?

If you do require any help, we are able to assist either in drafting a pet-nuptial or in helping you to negotiate the ongoing care arrangements of your pet following the breakdown of your relationship.

For more information please click here to contact a member our knowledgeable and highly experienced family law team today

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