McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Divorce - Who gets the dog?

It is now well accepted in modern day society that couples live together before marrying. This has created demand for pre-marital arrangements, especially where one party brings more to the dinner table than the other. Pre-nuptial agreements will deal with the situation where the couple gets married and divorce. Everyone seems to be well aware of their rights in relation to pre-nups which have gained media spotlight through footballers and other celebrities.  Cohabitation agreements are becoming more popular. A cohabitation agreement is a form of legal agreement reached between a couple who have chosen to live together (whether they are heterosexual or homosexual). In some ways, such a couple may be treated like a married couple, such as when applying for a mortgage or working out child support.

Pre-nups and cohabitation agreements offer financial certainty. However what happens if a couple get a pet which becomes part of the family and then a relationship breakdown occurs?

The Blue Cross have addressed this situation by producing a ‘pet-nup’ – a legal document for couples who need to declare what will happen to their pet in the event of splitting up. The charity were concerned as research revealed that four pets are taken in every week by the animal charity due to relationship breakdowns, resulting in an extra 1,000 animals in their re-homing centres in the last five years alone.

McHale & Co have specialist lawyers who can assist with pre-nups, cohabitation agreements and now pet-nups. Pets do become part of the family and deciding who gets to keep them following a relationship breakdown can be extremely troublesome. Victoria Richardson comments “Pets, especially cats and dogs, are treated as members of the family and, very often, are the children of the family.  Therefore if a relationship breaks down the arrangements for the pet can often cause more upset and distress than anything else.

I have seen parties, upon the breakdown of their relationship, make an arrangement regarding their pet that are not dissimilar to contact arrangements for the children so that both parties get to spend time with the pet.  Alternatively, I have also seen parties who are quite happy for the other party to have the ownership of the pet – and everything that comes with it!  What this does show, however, is that whether you agree with them or not a ‘pet-nup’, like ‘pre-nups’ offers clarity regarding the arrangements for the pet so that in the event of a breakdown of the relationship there is less animosity”.

If you have any questions get in touch 0161 928 3848 or email

Categories: Divorce & Family Law

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