Pet Custody Mediation

Jul 10, 2022 | News

Child refusing visitation

Pet Custody Mediation

DMS are experts in pet custody mediation in the UK. We have experience mediating on peoples’ dogs and other well-loved animals. We are familiar with the importance of pets to their humans and treat the dilemma of how to care for pets on separation in a sensitive and practical way.

Whilst we recognise that pets are not human, when couples separate or divorce there are many considerations around the treatment of pets, which mirrors the custody of children. Certainly, the law does not treat pets as it does children, but at DMS we adopt an approach similar to that adopted for children in guiding couples to solutions over the custody of pets. In mediation, we recognise what it means to lose contact with your pet and the factors we look at in mediation are far more wide reaching than those considered in the courts. The law treats a pet as a chattel, a piece of property, and look at them in terms of ownership, or which party has invested more monetarily in the animal. In mediation, we look further and use the best interests of the pet as a starting point to help you determine what will be a fair outcome.


Welfare of your pet

Mediators at DMS recognise that animals can become as stressed as humans when a separation takes place. They may experience a change in residence, a reduction in time spent with various members of the family, or a change in routine. Nothing may actually change for the pet, but they do pick up on the tense atmosphere between their humans. Those who seek custody of a pet may be surprised to understand the impacts identified by pet behaviourists. Unlike children for example, dogs may not adapt easily to shared custody and a dog is more adaptable to the absence of a previous owner, grieving only for a short time. Every pet is different and in mediation we encourage you to make arrangements for a trial period to see how it works for your pet.

MIAM direct mediation services
child refusing contact

Using your pet as a pawn

Separation is never an easy experience for those involved. Recriminations and sadness play a large part in coming to terms with the loss of a relationship. When a pet is involved in the process they may become a weapon against an ex-partner, or a tool in maintaining some control over the ex-partner whilst the grief is still being processed. Mediators would always recommend that children and pets are the first thing to discuss, before protracted discussions on finance and other future arrangements. It is a kindness to your pet that you decide their future by considering where they will be cared for the best.

Your love for your pet

Mediation is one of the few places that you will be able to safely express the strength of feeling you have for your pet. It will form part of the discussion between you and your ex-partner, whilst being guided by a third-party mediator. The process stays future focused on where your pet will exercise, be provided with food and medical care and live with human company. Mediation will look at who has been involved in their care in the past, whether they are attached to other animals or family members, what breed of dog, age of the pet, personality and whether there has been a history of abuse.

child inclusive mediation

The mediation process

As the issue of the pet often comes up in the wider discussion of arrangements on separation, it is important that the law is carefully considered and issues around ownership, abandonment and other considerations will all need to be part of the custody negotiation. This is particularly the case if one party has expressed a willingness to begin court proceedings to establish ownership. Mediation encourages parties to reach their own decision on a fair outcome by trying to put themselves in the other parties’ shoes. This can be difficult when a pet has become a companion in their own right, but emphasising the need to look forward and embrace change is often possible when reaching a compromise for caring for a loved animal.

How does mediation stick

For those who are unfamiliar with mediation, one of the questions which is asked is whether an agreement reached is enforceable. Unlike a court, mediators cannot issue orders to determine ownership. However, with the use of a Statutory Declaration, it is possible to record the terms of what is agreed in a mediation session. Unlike the discussions and notes within the mediation session, which are confidential and legally privileged, a Statutory Declaration, agreed by both parties and signed is valuable evidence that the participants in mediation have settled on an arrangement.

Pets matter

The mediators at DMS understand this. Mediating with your ex-partner can address the changes that are taking place in a calm process, which challenges you both to see what the future holds for you all.

Want to known more about pet mediation?

If you are interested in learning more about how pet mediation could help with you, complete the form below, which will be sent directly to Stuart, who will organise a time to speak with you. For legal advice about pet ownership, visit Trevor’s website

Please note that the pet mediation service is a separate service from Direct Mediation Services and all billing will be from DMS Civil & Commercial Ltd (Company number 13858178). Our registered company address is 64 Hall Lane, Armley, Leeds, LS1 2LH. 

    By completing this form you consent to Direct Mediation Services holding the information you provide us about you in accordance with our Privacy notice. By submitting your email address and telephone number to us you consent to us contacting you in order to enable us to deal with your query. Calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Who legally gets the dog in a breakup UK?

    Pets are treated as a possession in UK law after separation. Most of the times, the decision from the judge over who will be keeping the pet will come down to assessing who is the person responsible for taking care of the pet, who bought the animal or if the animal was bought as a gift.

    Can you fight for custody of a dog UK?

    Yes, it is not uncommon that the custody of a dog is decided by a District Judge in a Small Claims Court has the Judge has the power to decide who is the owner of the pet. The final decision will depend mostly on determining who is the primary owner of the pet.

    What is proof of ownership of a dog?

    There are different types of evidence that could be presented in Court to prove the ownership of a dog such as evidence of purchase, registration of the pet, medical records, microchip pet’s information, adoption records, ID tag, etc.

    What do you do if my ex-partner won't give your pet back?

    If your ex-partner has taken your pet and is not willing to give it back to you, there are two main courses of action. The first one is to try pet mediation where a mediator could assist you to reach an agreement between both participants in the conflict. The second option is to take your case to the UK smalls claims court where a District Judge will decide who is the sole owner of the pet.

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