A common question asked nowadays on divorce is not about the children but more who gets to keep the dog?
For many families the pet dog is an integral part of family life. So what happens when the marriage breaks down?
Surprisingly the law in England & Wales is that a pet will be treated as an item of personal property such as a piece of furniture, artwork or jewellery. The solution to the dispute can come down to as simple as who paid for the purchase of the pet. This can however seem very unfair where the other person has perhaps spent the majority of their time caring for the said pet.
Often the arguments of the pet can be emotive and lead to the pet being used as a bargaining chip. There is also the financial aspects of a pet (for example vets costs, food etc., and in cases of horses the livery costs etc can be significant). Shared care is rarely seen as practical and a Court is unlikely to be embroiled into an argument over contact. Whilst a party having day to day care over a pet may have some sway often legal ownership will prevail in the majority of cases.
It should be noted however that a recent case in Alaska in January 2017 may pave the way of a change to a welfare based approach to pet ownership similar to that of the care of children. We will need to watch this space to see whether this impacts significantly on English Law.
For further advice or information on this please contact Fiona Pawsey on 01202 877400.