The UK is a nation of pet owners, and many owners consider their pets as a member of the family. It comes as no surprise then, that when a relationship breaks down, arguments about who should keep the beloved family pet can arise, adding more emotional stress and tension to an already difficult time.

Unfortunately, Family Courts in England and Wales can be reluctant to involve themselves with ownership of the family pet, preferring the separating couple to make their own decisions.

In order to avoid what may be costly and drawn-out Court proceedings and help parties deal amicably with the breakdown of their marriage, issues concerning family pets should best be decided as soon as possible.

By arranging a schedule, for example, both parties can spend time with the pet, although in some cases this may not be possible where a clean break is required.

For some couples, making provision for pets in a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, or Post-Nuptial Agreement, can be the best way forward. This can help to avoid any misunderstanding and minimise dispute in the event that the parties’ marriage breaks down and they have to divide their personal property.

It may be the case that the issue of pet ownership on divorce becomes an increasing issue for Family Courts to decide.

In the meantime, however, the best way forward for divorcing pet owners will be to remain amicable, so far as possible, and consider their pet’s needs first.