Cute piggybank image to reflect Family and Matrimonial law

Who keeps the pets if you separate?

Things to consider when adopting a pet together

Divorce, living together and family issues

Pets are now such an important part of the family, that it can be difficult to decide who should care for them when a relationship breaks down.

What should I do if my partner won’t agree to me owning the pet after separation?

  1. It is important to think about what is in the best interest of your pets. Although it is an emotional decision, you must consider your pets’ welfare primarily. This could include whether the pet will be left at home because of work commitments, if they have enough outdoor space, where other members of the family will reside, etc.
  2. Try to discuss the options and work out an arrangement amicably with your ex-partner first.
  3. If you are no able to reach an agreement with your ex-partner, you could try mediation. It is better to reach an agreement with each other rather than it being made at court, as then you will have no control over the decision.
  4. If mediation is unsuccessful, you can seek the courts involvement. It is important to note that during a divorce settlement a pet will be treated as an asset/chattel and not like a child would be. Whilst the court has the power to make orders regarding assets, court proceedings should only be pursued once you have reasonably exhausted all other options to resolve the matter. Court proceedings are very time consuming and expensive and so should be used as a last resort.

Factors which the court will take into consideration when making the decision:

  • Who is the main carer of the pet?
  • Who purchased the pet and whether there is evidence of this payment?
  • Who pays for the pet’s food, vet bills and day to day care?
  • Whose name is on the micro-chip?
  • Will seeing the pet less than they presently do affect any children living in your care?
  • Whether the pet is used to help with a disability for example a guide dog?
  • Who is registered with the vet?
  • Whether there is a pet nup?
  • Who spent the most time with the pet?

It is worth looking at these factors and taking them into account when discussing with your ex-partner what agreement you can come to, as the cost of mediation and court proceedings could be wasted if your ex-partner is obviously the pets’ primary carer based upon these factors.

What is a pet nup?

If you decide to adopt or purchase a pet with someone you are living with, it would be sensible to consider drawing up a pet nup at the start, so that if separation does occur there is no dispute as to who takes ownership of the pet.

You can record the terms of ownership, custody, and other arrangements for your pet, such as who is responsible for the expenses associated with owning a pet. ‘Pet nups’ are not legally binding, but the court will consider the agreement entered into and it can be major factor in the courts decision making.


If you and your partner are living together, have you considered a cohabitation agreement? Couples who are not married are provided considerably less legal protection on separation or death, so read our guidance “Do I need a Cohabitation Agreement?”