Divorce And Pet Custody

Date: February 21st, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors


Bucking the trend for sluggish Christmas sales on the high street a leading chain of pet stores this week announced bumper profits.  A director explained that the company’s success was in large part down to the fact that people now treat their pets as true family members. They are prepared to spend considerable sums ensuring their animal’s happiness and welfare.



Unsurprisingly, such devotion to a pet can sometimes lead to bitter disputes during divorce and family breakdown. Arrangements for children and financial settlements might be the main areas of contention in a divorce. But at Brookman in London we also see custody of a pet regularly becoming a subject of intense discussion in the course of our specialist family law work.

In 2016 reports suggested that solicitors had seen pet custody disputes rise by as much as a third.

The issue can become even more complicated in some of the international divorces we handle when parties intend to live in different countries after their separation.



Many of the cases in this area originate in the United States. There, many advocate applying a “best interests of the pet” test similar to that used to decide children arrangements. In England the Dogs Trust has carried out research showing that 20% of divorcing couples think deciding on a pet’s future would be as stressful as deciding on child arrangements.

Strictly speaking, the law in England and Wales views a pet as a personal possession – like a painting or a car. But it’s hard to imagine any family judge ignoring the unique nature of a pet. It would seem unjust to disregard completely the emotional attachment between a dog and the divorcing parties when deciding who should have ownership.



It is possible to separately agree the ownership, custody and other arrangements for your dog in what is sometimes called a ‘petnup’. It’s one way to take the issue out of the hands of the court and avoid the expense of asking a judge to decide ownership and with whom the pet should live.

Family courts are under pressure as never before. Pet ownership will not always be a pressing issue for family judges. Remember, the default position under the law is that pets are a piece of property. Custody will ultimately be decided on the basis of property law and this can lead to deeply unsatisfactory outcomes for both sides.

As with many issues in family law, it is often best to resolve issues over pets privately. If you would like to discuss this or any other aspect of family separation and divorce please call us on 44 (0) 20 7430 8470 or contact us online. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to those who may be embarking on a divorce or who want advice on family law generally.


Google Reviews

Brookman Solicitors

56 Reviews

Rhea Steel 06/09/2019

I sent an email to book a free 45 min consultation. A senior partner answered my questions and put me at ease. No consultation needed!

A D 29/08/2019

I had the opportunity to meet Henry Brookman in a very difficult time of my life and he has been of great advise and support. Thank you!

Simon Rogerson 12/08/2019

I wanted to say a big thanks to Henry Bookman and his colleagues for all their help and guidance during my divorce - a long a complicated one. The team were all brilliant. I loved the fact that Henry was happy to explore possibilities and search for solutions. I also feel that on occasions he gave hope when things were against me. All told a great coach who was ready with pearls of wisdom when I needed it.

An'a. K 10/08/2019

I would strongly recommend this firm. I had the opportunity to discuss my case thoroughly with Mr Bookman. But before the initial consultation, I had a telephone conversation with a legal assistant who took most of the details down, so that my initial consultation was to the point I appreciate the advice given by Mr Bookman and think it a humble approach that the initial consultation is FREE and carried by the most senior member of the firm and not by a junior staff like it happens in other firms.

Anonymous 08/08/2019

Aziz Malik. Unbelievably good. Fantastic advice and was able to manage my difficult family law case to a superb outcome. Highly recommended.