Divorce and the dog – who gets to keep man’s best friend?

When a couple decides to divorce, there are often other issues that must be resolved along the way.

For many, the family pet is considered another member of the family and trying to decide on the arrangements for who should take care of the dog can be very difficult and saying goodbye can be upsetting.

Unlike children, where a careful assessment of the best interests of a child is considered, there is no such approach for pets.

The courts take a very different view on pets, which are legally regarded as chattels and therefore treated and viewed as property, such as a car or furniture. Therefore, the family court’s powers are limited when determining issues over property entitlement.

There have been a few high-profile celebrity divorces such as that of Ant McPartlin and Lisa Armstrong who argued over their chocolate Labrador Hurley, and Amber Heard who was given custody of dogs Pistol and Boo (who almost got them deported from Australia!) in her divorce settlement with Johnny Depp.

Despite this, the courts are keen to take account of proportionality in respect of litigation costs and disputes over low value assets within the divorce are not considered good use of the court’s time. Mediation therefore may assist in reaching not only an agreement as to the overall assets of the marriage, but who gets to spend the weekend with Fido.

If you are considering a divorce, please contact our Family Team.