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Pet custody in divorce and separation 

Experiencing a relationship breakdown is usually a stressful time for all parties involved. It can be made even more upsetting when considering what to do about your pet.

Many of us think of our pet as one of the family and the thought of losing them, as well as dealing with the emotional turmoil of a break up, can at times feel too much.

Sadly, ten per cent of people said they had lost a pet during a break up with a partner, with more than five per cent saying they had had to work out visiting hours with an ex.

However, there are a few things that you can think about in order to make the transition for your pet an easier one.

While pet owners will disagree, in the UK pets are considered property from a legal standpoint.

If a decision can’t be mutually reached on custody of your pet and you don’t have proof of ownership in your name, a court could decide on legal ownership and the return of the animal. However, they don’t have the power to order the legal owner to give access to the dog to the non-legal owner.

A court may take into consideration the following: who bought the dog, who the key provider is, whose name is registered on the dog’s microchip and insurance, who is registered with the vet.

The best thing is to settle pet custody outside of court, and to come to a mutual decision together.

These can be hard conversations to have but, if you can, you will need to sit down with your partner and discuss what the arrangements will be regarding who will be keeping your pet, and whether the decision you have made will be the best for them.

The best decision will depend on what pet you have. For instance, if you have a dog and are considering sharing custody, you should consider what schedule will work best for your dog. They should have a key carer who has both the time and money to be able to care for them on their own.

This is slightly different for cats, as they become more attached to their environment and are better staying with the partner who is remaining in the same house. If neither of you are staying in the same place, then you can discuss who is in the best position to keep the cat, bearing in mind things like money, time and location (i.e. is it away from a busy main road?).

NOTE: If you are discussing some form of shared custody, be sure that your training remains consistent – if your pet is allowed on the sofa in your house and not in the other’s they will soon become confused about what they are allowed to do.

Who gets custody with two pets?

If you have two pets, you will need to think about their relationship with each other. If you have two pets that are attached then, while it may seem like the fair decision to have one pet each, this may not be the best decision for them.

However, if your pets are not particularly fond of each other, or seem more content when they are on their own, then splitting them up may be the right option for everyone involved.

It’s important to remember that your pet can easily sense changes in their environment. This means that if there is tension in the home or arguing, they can pick up on this and this may cause behaviour changes.

If you can, try to keep arguing and emotional discu-ssions to a minimum around your pet.

Be sure to carefully monitor your pet for any changes in behaviour or appetite – this can be an indication that your pet is feeling anxious or stressed. A hormone diffuser such as Feliway or Adaptil can help keep your pet calm during what can be a stressful period of time.