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Deciding What Happens To Pets During A Divorce

During a divorce, the major issues are usually about who gets custody of the children, if there are any, and what happens to all of the money and assets. But what about pets? 

This is something that many couples fail to consider and it can lead to a lot of difficulties. A pet isn’t just an asset, it’s part of the family and if both parties want to keep the pet, it leads to a big conflict. You have to consider what is best for the animal too, so think about which person they spend the most time with and who is going to be able to look after them. 

Most people are completely unprepared for this issue during a relationship breakdown and they don’t know how to deal with it. So, how do you decide who keeps pets in a divorce?

The Law 

Unfortunately, the law falls short where pets are concerned. They are legally considered to be an asset like any other. This means that any legal ruling will treat your dog or cat in the same way that they treat your TV. The person that purchased the animal and who it is registered to is considered the legal owner and they have all rights to them. If there is clear evidence that it was given as a gift, things are a little different. The court will consider who looks after the pet and pays for its care (buying food, paying vet bill etc.) The problem is, a lot of this is hard to prove. 

In the end, the court can order that the pet stays with one person but if they can’t decide, they may order that the pet is sold and the money is split. This is obviously not a good solution, so you should start thinking about how you want to handle things. 

Pet Nups 

A prenuptial agreement is an agreement that people sign before getting married to determine how money and assets will be divided. When writing a prenup, you can include plans for your pet. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 couples do this. Putting this agreement in place now can make things much easier in the future. 

Mediation 

In the event that a relationship breaks down and no agreements have been made about the pet beforehand, mediation is the next step. If you speak with family law solicitors that have a lot of experience with divorce, they will be able to guide you. During mediation, you will work with a third party to determine what is best for the pet. 

Sharing Custody

Many people think that sharing custody of a pet is the best solution, but this doesn’t take into account the wellbeing of the animal. Dogs, for example, will become very distressed if you constantly upset their routine and move them into different environments. 

The majority of pet custody cases do not go past the mediation stage and, if possible, you should try to resolve things yourselves. If it is left up to the judge, you may not get the outcome that you want because the law is not particularly interested in the wellbeing of the animals.