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After divorce or separation, who has the pets?

Nov 24, 2021 | News


After divorce or separation, who has the pets?

The last few years with covid have been hard on family life. Lockdowns have seen increased domestic disputes between couples and sadly the pressure have resulted in many separations and divorces. During this time, many families took on pets and the family dog or cat are now the centre of domestic conflict. The ultimate question being asked is “Who gets the dog or cat?”

Cooper & Co Solicitors are specialists in pet ownership and they run the website: www.doglaw.co.uk In 2020, they saw a rise of 88% in advice calls on this specific subject. DMS is pleased to be able to signpost directly to their Head of Practice, Trevor Cooper, who is an expert in this field. Trevor is a big animal lover and has the chair for the Microchip Trade Association for pets and is also a consultant for well-known Battersea Dogs’ & Cats’ Home. The reason why we signpost is because it is vital that when there is a dispute over pet ownership, separating couples understand how the law works and get good legal advice.

Of course, the best situation is talk things through with your ex and find a compromise, but this is not always possible and emotions may run high. Also, anyone who has a pet, understands that their dog or cat, is an important member of the family and deciding where they should live can be difficult.

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What are my options?

The first option is to try and sit down to discuss what happens next. When having this discussion, it may be best to go to a neutral location, such as a café, as people generally behave better when other people are around. You may want to bring a mutual friend along, if you can find one who can help keep the peace and the discussions moving forward. Mediation is also an option, where a qualified mediator will help you have a constructive discussion; however, there is a cost with this service. The usual process in mediation is to have a confidential screening meeting where each person meets the mediator separately and if mediation is appropriate, then a joint meeting is scheduled. This can be face-to-face (in person or online) or shuttle, which is where the mediator goes between the two parties. At the start of the meeting an agenda is set and the rules of mediation explained. Following this stage, matters are discussed and hopefully a resolution found that everyone can live with.

A word from pet mediator, Stuart Hanson FMCA PPC JP

Stuart Hanson, Managing Partner of Direct Mediation Services says, “People ask me if the mediation sessions are different from child mediation. My reply is that they are generally not, because pets are part of our families and are loved as well and we have a strong emotional bond with them. However, there is one difference, the law sees pets as possessions, “chattel” and so it would be a civil court that would be involved in providing a resolution if one cannot be agreed in mediation or through solicitor led negotiations.”

blog image stu

Going to court about our pets

Going before a civil court and a District Judge can be a costly experience where they will look at who is the legal owner of the animal. Getting a legal opinion before starting court proceedings is always strongly advised as costs can run into thousands.

Pet Mediation Case Study

Raj and Suzanne recently separated after a 5 years relationship. To celebrate their three-year anniversary Raj bought a pedigree Bichon dog, Peaches, home. Suzanne was in love at first sight, they had been trying to have a child, but had found out it was not possible. In her eyes, Peaches was her little furry baby. Suzanne worked from home, so she spent all her days with Peaches sat under the desk. Raj would come home on an evening and would take Peaches on a walk to unwind. The dog was an integral part of their routines and existence.

Sadly, the relationship broke down and Raj and Suzanne decided to sell the home they had bought. Everything was civil until Raj mentioned that he wanted to have the dog following the end of the relationship. This is where the problems started. They tried talking about the situation, but the conversations always ended up in arguments.

Raj suggested mediation as he wanted to avoid court. They attended their initial meetings and then went to their joint session. With an impartial third party there, they managed to come to an agreement. Raj understood that Suzanne provided good care for Peaches during the day, which was not possible as he was at work. Suzanne listened to Raj and heard how important Peaches was to his mental health and being able to wind down.

The final agreement that they came to was that Suzanne would have Peaches during the week and at weekends, Raj would have her. This would allow him to have his long walks and unwind. It was also agreed that Raj could have Peaches during his four weeks holiday, so that there was parity in the time that Peaches spend with each human parent. To make things feel binding, they both agreed to do a Statutory Declaration, which they signed.

The good news is that Peaches is happy and gets to see both Suzanne and Raj, which is good for everyone.

Meet Peaches

So, what happens next?

If you are interested in learning more about how mediation could help with your pet dispute, complete the form below and one of our team will organise a time to speak with you. For legal advice about pet ownership, visit Trevor’s website www.doglaw.co.uk

Want to known more about pet mediation?

You can call Direct Mediation Services on 0113 4689593, email [email protected] or complete the form below for a free call back.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who get the dog or cat when you separate?

Our pets are not children, even though they often feel like that. The law views pets as possessions, so it is about proof of ownership.

Is there pet mediation?

Yes. Instead of starting an expensive legal case in the courts, many people find a solution with the support of a qualified and accredited mediator.

What does pet mediation cost?

The hourly rate is usually around £120 per person per hour. This is for a professional and accredited mediator.

How long does pet mediation take?

There is usually an initial meeting which each person attends separately and then most cases get sorted in one or two hours.

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