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Who really gets the dog? Pets and divorce.

pets and family law

Who really gets the dogs? Pets and divorce.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole” – Roger Caras

Do you regard your family pet as a valued member of the family? If so, you might be surprised to learn that the divorce courts regard animals simply as personal possessions like your kettle or lawn mower.

Legal arguments over pets can actually present a major hurdle in resolving other important financial issues, such as where is everyone going to live. So much so, that the court have considered dealing with any canine issues early on in the case and to then add focus on everything else! More and more dog owners are actually considering the use of prenuptial agreements to avoid custody battles over their four-legged friends.

In the US these battles are more common place but we are starting to catch up here. In one case, Liam Gallagher, the Oasis singer, and his estranged wife Nicole Appleton went to court over who kept their dogs. Nigella Lawson was said to be devastated after her ex-husband Charles Saatchi won “custody” of a stuffed mutt they owned dubbed Narles — a mixture of their first names.

In other cases the arrangement for a pet is an afterthought; and anyone who has a pet knows that a radical change to a living situation can create stress, trauma and an assortment of behaviour issues.

So what do you do if there starts to be one or more bones of contention? Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

• Do you have a flexible work pattern or have someone to help you with the care of a dog?

• Do you have the financial means to support your furry friend and through his expected life? Can you afford it?

• Where do your children spend the majority of their time and should this be with their pet too?

• Who has done the main looking after of Lassie?

• What part does space in a new home play in ensuring the dog is healthy and active.

If you’ve had any experience about this, we would be interested to know!

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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