10th January 2024|In Latest News, Divorce & Separation

Who Keeps The Dog

One of the most common disagreements after relationship breakdowns concerns dog ownership. People have incredibly strong ties with their dogs, and often their ability to retain possession of the pet feels more important than any question of finance. In such instances, it can be helpful to seek legal advice.

This article will explore some of the questions that most frequently arise in such situations. We will look at it within the context of the parties separating from both marriage and cohabitation. However, they must have been a couple. This guidance does not apply to disagreements between former housemates.

Let’s begin with divorce.

With divorce proceedings becoming easier and more common, disputes over dog ownership are more prevalent than ever. In the UK, if a married couple has a dog, it’s treated like any other material possession. So when they get divorced, the question of who retains ownership is determined as part of the broader financial settlement.

This tendency for the court to look at the dog like nothing more than an object, is really difficult for many owners. People forge relationships with their dogs every bit as meaningful as they do with other people, and the idea it will be lumped in the same category as the TV and dishwasher, is a really hard thing to accept.

For those who haven’t been married but lived together, the issue of dog ownership is much more straightforward from a legal point of view. It’s simply a question of who bought the dog. It doesn’t matter who took it for walks, who bought the food or who “loved it more”. The only thing that matters is who actually bought the animal.

If you didn’t buy the dog but would like to continue your relationship with it, you still have a couple of options. You might be able to make a financial offer to the other party (although in our experience these offers are rarely accepted) or you may be able to convince the other party to enter into shared custody. But this is their choice. If they bought the dog and they wish to retain full custody, that is their prerogative.

Where things become more complicated is if you bought the dog together. This is when we need to dig into the detail, and the more information and evidence you can provide the better. Factors that will influence the outcome include:

  • Who is registered the dog with the vet
  • Who bought the dog its food
  • Who cared for the dog, walked it, etc
  • Who is on the microchip
  • Is there any insurance and, if so, under whose name

In these cases we will often recommend mediation between the two parties, as the more constructive and amicable you can keep the communication, the more likely it is you can reach a positive outcome.

Another scenario that can introduce greater complexity is if the dog was given to the couple cohabiting as a gift. Particularly if the person gifting the dog is related to one of the parties, as it’s likely they will say their relative was the intended owner (such as the parents of one of the cohabitants claiming the dog was specifically for their child). In this case, if you dispute that version of events we would ask that you provide supporting evidence. For example, is there a text message or social media post that clearly states the dog was intended as a joint gift for the couple?.

A similar scenario is if the dog was a gift to a child of the couple, in which case (assuming there is evidence to support that version of events) the dog will remain with the child in whichever residence they now live.

As you can see, there are many variables that can affect a claim, so the best thing to do is contact our specialist team on 0333 344 6302 or via info@blanchardslaw.co.uk, and we can talk you through the specifics of your case.

Can we help you? Please call us on 0333 344 6302 or contact us through our enquiry form. All initial enquiries are free and without obligation.

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