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How are pets dealt with by the courts upon divorce or separation? Hegarty Ask the Experts column

How are pets dealt with by the courts upon divorce or separation?

Julia Weber of Hegarty Solicitors answers:

Whilst there is legislation and regulation protecting animal’s rights, for example against cruelty; they are not necessarily considered in the same way by the UK courts when a marriage breaks down or separation of a cohabiting couple.

Julia Weber, family solicitor based in Oakham
Julia Weber, family solicitor based in Oakham

Although many of us would consider our pets part of the family, upon divorce, pets will be considered as chattels like household contents such as a car or jewellery. In certain circumstances, the court when considering a spouse’s income needs may order spousal maintenance by taking into account the pet’s upkeep and costs. They may be considered as part of the overall financial settlement between the parties when a marriage breaks down.

Whilst each case is different the factors the court may consider are as follows:

  • Who purchased the pet?
  • The value of such pet?
  • Whose name is registered on the microchip?
  • Who is the registered with the vet?
  • Who pays the vet fees, insurance and upkeep?
  • Who is the main carer of the pet?

The difficulty with such an approach is that no regard is taken into account of the emotional feeling parties attach to their pets.

Sadly, there is currently no precedent or rule in the UK which takes into account the pet’s welfare upon divorce or separation, but things may change in the future.

For further information regarding any family law matter, please call our Oakham office on 01572 757565 or our Stamford office on 01780 752066 or email julia.weber@hegarty.co.uk.

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