What Happens to The Pets if we Separate?
Animal lovers will no doubt agree that their pets are well and truly part of the family. It makes perfect sense that during a separation or divorce, your furry friend is taken into consideration. Some people do take the decision to record their intentions in a pre-nuptial agreement, which can be useful for providing clarity in the future. But what happens if you have no such agreement?
Unfortunately, there’s a real possibility for disagreement here; the bonds we form with our beloved pets are strong, and it’s common to want to keep your relationship with your pet part as of your life, even if you no longer wish to be with your spouse. So, what happens to your pet when you divorce and how is it decided?
What Does the Law Say?
It may come as a surprise, but in the eyes of the law pets are treated as property. If there is a dispute following a separation or divorce, it is uncommon for the court to get involved with the ownership of the pet, and/or contact with it (but not unheard of), meaning that, generally, any disputes will be resolved directly between you and your ex-spouse.
The first thing to consider is - who bought the pet? Whose money was used to buy it? Was it a gift? If so, can you prove it? Another important thing to do is to establish who has supported the pet financially; vet bills, insurance policies, food, general care needs etc.
This may seem a bit unfair, especially if you consider yourself to be the main carer of the pet, or the person that spends the majority of time with the animal. But if one party can prove that they purchased the pet, or exclusively finances the vet bills etc, there may simply be no argument in the eyes of the law. However, where the animal has financial value, for example; a pedigree dog or horses, the court may take this value into account when dividing your assets.
What if I Want to Share the Care of my Pet with my Ex-Spouse?
Of course, sharing care is always an option. However, there are several practicalities that need to be addressed before any sort of shared arrangement can be established. If you don’t want to have any contact with your ex-spouse, how will you organise the logistics of moving your pet from house to house? Who finances vet bills if you pet becomes ill? If a ‘shared care arrangement’ can be agreed, it is a good way of maintaining contact with your pet and minimising more emotional distress.
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind in what will inevitably be a complicated and difficult time, is the welfare of the pet. Despite the legal stance on possession with regard to pets, please bear in mind that pets are an important part of any family, and they deserve careful consideration when it comes to your separation.
Here at Vines Legal, we’re experts in helping our clients through the process of separation and divorce. If you are considering a separation, or going through a divorce, please do contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation.
By Vines Legal on 3 Jun 2020, 11:32 AM