How to Decide Who Keeps the Pets During a Divorce

by Jenn

Wondering about which one of you should get the pets when you go through divorce? In this article, we’ll be discussing how you can decide…

Divorce can prove very complex, as there is a lot to decide and agree upon during the process. Children, finances, and property are all elements that need to be discussed. What’s more, as more couples are taking ownership of pets, this can add to the challenge when these couples choose to get divorced.

No doubt you will both care for your pet, and therefore will struggle with deciding their fate. Will one of you take full ownership, or will you share the care?

So, how do you decide who gets to keep pets in a divorce? In this article, we’ll be providing you with a breakdown of how you can make this difficult decision…

The Rules Around Pets in a Divorce

The law is extremely clear when it comes to family pets as they are classed as chattel which means that they are an item of personal property. In its basic form, the pet will go to the individual who purchased the pet and whoever the pet is registered to will remain the owner. However, if the pet was purchased as a gift or as a joint gift, then it becomes much more than just a chattel. 

The issue of who will look after the much-loved pet can become complex and challenging. Furthermore, it will become a serious consideration when it comes to divorce proceedings. As a result, arguments around who will remain the owner of the pet can become emotional.

If it is not clear who the owner is, then the court will consider what will be the best decision based on the best interests of the animal. While this can involve all types of pets, it commonly involves cats and dogs.

What is The Law on Pet Custody?

If the evidence that is available proves that one person is the rightful owner, then the court can grant that individual sole ownership of the pet. As mentioned, in order for this to occur, it would require evidence that one of the parties owns the pet, provides the primary care and has financial responsibility.

Of course, this evidence is not always available, so this could mean that a joint custody agreement will be put in place. This will have to be decided between those parties involved, and the pet’s wellbeing will also be considered. However, a court order can be put in place that is made on a weekly basis.

Joint Pet Custody – Is It the Right Option?

If both parties have a strong emotional bond with the pet, then they are going to want to take ownership individually. Commonly, people do not want to part with their pets which is understandable, so sometimes, joint pet custody is the best option. 

When it comes to joint custody, there have to be certain considerations made on how the arrangement will work. Will one party take responsibility for caring for the pet the majority of the time or will it be split evenly, such as alternating weeks and weekends?

With this in mind, how do you decide on where the primary residence of the pet might be?

3 Things to Consider When Deciding the Pet’s Fate

Does the Pet Have a Stronger Bond with One Party than the Other?

Some pets might have more of a bond with one owner than the other. This could be the basis of the decision when it comes to deciding who they reside with more regularly. 

The Ability to Care for Them and the Responsibility

There is a lot to think about here, such as lifestyle, work and the home of both parties. If one of the parties works away, then this would mean that they cannot look after the pet on a more regular basis, so an ad-hoc arrangement might work better.

One of the individuals might have more of an active social life, which also means they are not home as frequently as they need to be. In addition to this, if the pet is a dog or a cat, then you have to think about exercise and freedom.

One might have a larger garden while the other party might live in an apartment. If it is a cat, the cat might be more familiar with the area which makes it easier than moving them to a new area that they are unfamiliar with.

Splitting the Cost

If the time that each party spends with the pet is not equally split up for some of the reasons above, then they could agree to split any costs. This might cover food, insurance, vet bills and any other costs. This would at least make the agreement fair from a financial perspective. 

What Should You Do with Your Pet During Your Divorce?

It is clear to see that pets can become a significant part of any divorce and there is a lot to consider. While every situation is different and there is a lot to think about, the main thing to ensure is that the wellbeing of the pet becomes a priority.

What do you think is the best option for a pet in this situation?

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained divorce professional. Be sure to consult a divorce professional if you’re seeking advice about your pets during divorce. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

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