Who gets the family dog when separating?


When a relationship ends, the former partners need to come to an arrangement about how to divide the property and how to share the care of the children, going forward. If an agreement cannot be reached then the court will be asked to step in and decide on behalf of the parties based on an established set of principles.

But what happens if the parties cannot come to an agreement over something that is neither property or a child, such as the family pet?
Many of us consider the family dog or cat to be a member of the family and the idea of being separated from them can be the cause of much distress. This can lead to expensive legal battles over who should be entitled to keep the pet.

Unfortunately, the law has no specific set of principals established to govern how a pet purchased during the relationship is to be dealt with in a separation.

If an argument about who keeps the family pet is brought before the court, the pet will be treated the same as any other property the parties owned during the relationship.

The usual approach when separating property is to either physically divide it in into portions , or to sell it and divide the proceeds. As both of these prospects are equally unsettling to average pet owner the court will generally determine that the pet is to remain with one side or the other.
Some separating couples are able to come to an agreement for the shared care of the pet going forward, however unless both parties agree ,the court will not make orders around the future care of pets like they do for children.

Arrangements such as these will require communication and contact between the ex-spouses which can have its own issues. Further issues around the pets healthcare, training and holidays can also arise and lead to potential conflict.

Unfortunately when it comes to the separation of the family pet there are no easy answers. The best approach is to try and come to an agreement that suits your situation. However if an agreement cannot be reached and the parties seek to rely on the courts to make the determination as to who is to keep the pet, one party is going to be left to accept a wholly unsatisfying outcome.