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Pets and Divorce -What happens to them?

You are buying a pet together – one of the happiest times for a couple. However, what happens to the pet if you later separate.


According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, there are 17 million pet-owning homes in the UK.

The question of pet arrangements and who owns them can be a serious and heart breaking issue that can be tricky to deal with when it arises.

The law in England and Wales

It is disappointing to note that the court considers your much loved pet in the same way they would consider your sofa or kitchen table, seeing them as property and not as a family member.

With this in mind having a court deal with your pet should be the last resort when deciding what happens to them as they will not be able to consider the pet’s wishes or feelings.

What the court will consider

The court will consider factors such as:

  • Who paid for the pet;
  • Who the pet is registered to;
  • Who pays for the pet insurance;
  • Was the pet a gift;
  • Are there any children involved.

When these things are not possible to prove, only then will the court consider what is in the best interest of the pet.

Different countries approach

In New York legislation was introduced in 2021 which required the best interest of the animal to be considered during a divorce. The legislation places animals in a similar position to children. Maybe one day the UK will take this approach.

Until then, and if looking to avoid the added complication upon separation/divorce of who your pet should live with, a pet-nup is a new form of agreement that can be entered into.


Pet-nup agreements are a common way to deal with your pet in the unfortunate case of separation and divorce.  

It is a standalone contract that focuses on the pet.

It provides a written agreement that there has been a decision reached between the parties relating to who the pet will live with, how the pet may see the other party .

The agreement will deal with the right of ownership, arrangements for the pet’s on-going care and any arrangements to meet the ongoing expenses associated with the pet.

It is important that people are aware and be prepared for what should happen to their pet during a separation or divorce for the sake of the parties  and the pet.

These types of agreements – along with pre nuptial agreements and post nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England and Wales. However, there are an increased number of pet related cases arising and the Court is more likely than not to take a Pet Nup into consideration if there is a later dispute over ownership or care arrangements.

For more information relating to pet-nups or to discuss a separation/divorce, please contact a member of the family department on 01905 721600 or via email:



Article researched and written by Izabelle Gisby, Paralegal, Droitwich Family Department.


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