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Who keeps the dog? Pets and Divorce

Posted on August 13th 2021

Since the start of the pandemic, with working from home becoming the new norm, it is estimated that there has been a boom with the number of couples and families welcoming pets into their homes. A reported 3.2 million UK households are believed to have acquired a household pet since the pandemic began.

However, when a relationship breaks down, who gets to keep the pet? Pets are often considered an important member of the family and as such, it is not surprising that divorcing couples can enter into expensive disputes over who gets to keep the pet.


What is a pet?

Under English family law, a “pet” is treated as a chattel, and is therefore afforded the same legal standing as a fridge-freezer or a wardrobe.

Where disputes arise as to who gets to keep the pet, in the majority of cases, it comes down to who purchased the pet and who has financially maintained the pet.

Pet custody after divorce

Whilst the family courts can assist in resolving matters regarding children, it is unlikely that the court will become embroiled in disputes regarding contact with a pet.

If both parties wish to retain the pet, an option to pursue is mediation to hopefully reach an agreement with your spouse in respect of caring for the pet, whether on a shared care arrangement or otherwise.

Most recently, celebrity Ant McPartlin and his wife Lisa Armstrong have finalised their divorce. As part of the divorce settlement, it was agreed that they would have shared custody of their beloved Labrador, Hurley.


A couple could consider entering into a “pet-nup” as a pre-emptive measure in the event of separation or divorce. Such agreement will set out the rights of ownership of the pet and also the arrangements for the pet’s ongoing care, such as vet bills and food costs.

This “pet-nup” can be incorporated within a pre-nuptial agreement, which sets out how a couple wish for assets to be divided between them if they later divorce or separate.

Whilst such agreements are not legally binding, they demonstrate the intention of the parties, which can ultimately be relied upon when the relationship breaks down, subject to the views of the court.

How can we help?

Our family law solicitors pride themselves on being dedicated to all of their clients. We offer a sympathetic ear and a discreet, confidential service. Whatever your situation, we always strive to ensure that you get the best service available. Family problems are extremely sensitive and difficult to deal with. They require experts who not only have the legal knowledge to argue your case, but who are sympathetic and understanding. Oliver & Co Solicitors in Chester can provide this service.

Please call 01244 312 306 to speak with a family law solicitor today.

Call and speak to a member of our team on 01244 312306