Pug of War - Who gets the pet when it comes to a divorce?

The dilemma of which party gets to keep the pet when a couple decide to part ways, is an issue which clients often ask our solicitors about.

According to the Blue Force animal charity, one in four divorces involve a dispute over a pet, whether that be cat, dog, or any other beloved creature.

Earlier this year, popular TV presenter Ant McPartlin and his ex-wife Lisa hit the headlines when they were involved in a spat over who gained custody of their chocolate Labrador Hurley.

After finalising the settlement of their £31 Million divorce, a judge later ruled they should share joint custody of the pooch.

A pet is often considered to be part of the family so deciding who gets to keep the animal is becoming an increasingly sensitive topic.

Sarah Bird, our Family Law Solicitor, says: “More people seem to have pets nowadays and a pet becomes part of the family.

“We’ve been involved with settling separation and divorce cases involving horses and dogs, and obviously it’s something that can become a heated discussion.

“Horses in particular can often be valuable assets. Whilst one of the parties may claim it is just a hobby, that does not make sense if at the same time he or she has the horse advertised for sale after a successful point to point victory.


“Dog battles being made public by popular celebrities have normalised the issue, giving people the confidence to fight for custody of their pets.

“In one case of ours there was a couple who had a dog but they didn’t have any children together.  Practical factors such as the nature of one of the parties working hours became relevant, as they found it difficult to look after the pet during the week.”

Sarah continued: “Normally pets will be dealt with as an asset or possession of the marriage or relationship and there may be an argument based on which party initially paid for the pet.  This can be looked at as part of a separation settlement.”

Our family law solicitor Sarah Bird can take you through some of the legal issues surrounding pet custody arrangements and other queries.

Contact us on 0131 555 7055, or use the contact form below.

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Our Family Law expert

“People often say to me that family law must be a depressing job – but I’ve never felt that. What we do makes a difference. I love working with my clients to understand their stories, help them work out where they want to get to, and collaborate with them to achieve their goals. Seeing people come through it and embark on a new stage of their lives is a great feeling.”

Dianne Millen, Head of Family Law