Who gets the dog after a divorce?

We’re a nation of dog-lovers. It’s estimated that us Brits spend £12bn a year on ‘man’s best friend.’

So, who gets the treasured pooch in the divorce?

The law

Though dog owners will see their four-legged friend as a member of the family, the divorce courts won’t.  In the eyes of the law, your dog is treated as an ‘asset’ (i.e. like a car or house).  But, courts do have a wide discretion when looking at who gets to keep the dog.  So, what will a divorce judge have in mind when deciding who gets the dog?!

Factors to be taken into account

Because your dog will be seen as an asset, ownership of he or she is key.  So, courts will look at things like:-

  • who paid for the dog
  • whether there’s tangible evidence of ‘proof of ownership’ (e.g. a receipt)
  • who pays the insurance and/or vet bills

Courts will be mindful of the relationship any children of the family have with the dog. The best interests of children is the highest priority for any divorce court and so, if any of the children have a particular bond with the dog, it is likely to weigh heavily on any decision made by the court.

Ultimately, judges have a wide discretion.  And, in the absence of compelling evidence (as above) they’ll consider who is in a better position to look after the dog.

Process for agreement

You don’t have to go to court.

There are various ways you can reach an agreement: –

  • between you and your spouse;
  • through solicitor negotiations;
  • via a mediator (a professional, neutral third party)

Shared care arrangements can be agreed (however, whether this is a practical solution in the long-term is up for debate)!

Can’t agree

If you’re unable to agree then it will be for the court to decide for you.

You must attend a mediation session (known as a ‘MIAM’) before the court will allow you to make an application.

If you need help and advice on this or any other related subject, please reach out to the Qlaw Family Team.  We’re here to help.