Pets are often considered to be part of the family and so it can be difficult to decide who should care for them when a relationship breaks down.
What should I do if my partner won’t agree to me owning the pet after separation?
1. It is important that you firstly think about what is in pets’ best interest.
2. Try to discuss the options with your ex-partner to reach an arrangement.
3. If you are unable to communicate with your partner without assistance you could try mediation. It is important to try and reach an amicable agreement because you will have no control over the decision if it is made at court.
4. If mediation is unsuccessful, you can seek the courts involvement. It is important to note that during a divorce settlement a pet will be treated as an asset/chattel and not like a child would be. Whilst the court has the power to make orders regarding assets, court proceedings should only be pursued once you have reasonably exhausted all other options to resolve the matter. Court proceedings are very time consuming and expensive and so should be used as a last resort.
Factors which the court will take into consideration when making the decision:
- Who is the main carer of the pet?
- Who purchased the pet and whether there is evidence of this payment?
- Who pays for the pet’s food, vet bills and day to day care?
- Whose name is on the micro-chip?
- Will seeing the pet less than they presently do affect any children living in your care?
- Whether the pet is used to help with a disability for example a guide dog?
- Who is registered with the vet?
- Whether there is a pet nup?
- Who spent the most time with the pet?
What is a pet nup?
It would be sensible to consider entering into this agreement with your partner so if separation does occur there is no dispute as to who takes ownership of the pet. You can record the terms of ownership, custody, and other arrangements for your pet, such as who is responsible for the expenses associated with owning a pet. ‘Pet nups’ are not legally binding, but the court will consider the agreement entered into and it can be major factor in the courts decision making.
By Nicola Horrocks, paralegal in the family law team