Pets in Divorce – Should I consider a petnup?

When we think about divorce or separation, it’s not just the human members of the family that need to be considered. For many of us, our furry friends are just as important and what happens to them in separation or divorce can be a very worrying time.

Going through a separation or divorce can be tough, especially when it comes to deciding what’s best for your beloved pets. If you’re wondering about custody arrangements for your beloved pet, you’ve come to the right place.

Pets are legally considered as chattels in divorce proceedings. However, a petnup agreement can help clarify ownership and responsibilities. While not legally binding, it can be influential in court.

We caught up with Harpreet Saund, RLK Solicitor’s Head of Family following a rise in pet disputes following a separation/divorce. Harpreet answers some commonly asked questions she hears from clients.

I have a pet that I love, and I want them to live with me when me and my partner split what are my options?

In the first instance see if you can discuss matters with your partner and come to some form of mutual arrangement.  

If arrangements can’t be agreed, then the court has the power to make orders. Pets are legally classed as chattels in divorce proceedings in England and Wales. Basically, this means that pets are considered by the court in the same category as personal belongings.

The court has however no requirement to consider the welfare of a pet.

Can the pet be shared?

Pets can be shared if an agreement is reached.

The welfare of the pet should be the primary concern and parties should work together to create a nurturing environment for their pet. The maintenance for pets will be shared equally.

Will the court take my pet into consideration?

The court will take your pet into consideration as it will be treated as a chattel. A chattel is personal property that is owned by the person who bought it or received it as a gift.

The starting point will be factors like who paid for the pet, who is the registered owner and who pays for the insurance and food etc, whose name is registered on the microchip.

The court can calculate maintenance costs for pets when determining income needs as part of a financial settlement.

In high value pets (certain breeds of dogs and cats) their value can become a significant asset. If valuation is contested, like any other asset – a joint expert can be instructed to provide a valuation.

Should I consider a petnup?

A petnup agreement focuses on pet related matters. 
A petnup focuses on ownership, rights over the pet and who is responsible in the event of a divorce or separation. The law does not currently treat petnups as being legally binding. However, they are likely to be considered and influential to the court should future conflict arise.
Overall, the most important thing to remember when attempting to get custody of a pet during a divorce is that you will require as much evidence as possible to prove you are the rightful owner.

At RLK Solicitors, we understand the significance of pets in a family unit and strive to ensure their well-being during legal proceedings. From custody arrangements to financial support, we’re here to help you navigate every step with care and compassion.

We can guide you as to the best way forward, contact us to arrange an appointment. You can either call us on 0121 451 1661 or complete a short form on our website and a member of our family team will get in touch with you.