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One of these (which may not seem so minor to animal lovers) is pet custody following separation. A much-loved family cat or dog will need somewhere to live, and someone will need to take responsibility for its care.

Disagreements over pet custody and access can easily escalate if not properly managed. Here’s what the law has to say on the matter, along with tips on how to make an arrangement that suits everyone.
Pets and divorce law

If the two of you are unable to decide who gets main custody of your pet, the matter will be handled by the courts.

A divorce court will usually treat a family pet in much the same way as property. This might sound a little harsh to those devoted to their pet, but this is the legal standpoint the courts have to use to make their decision.

When deciding who your pet will live with, a court may take the following into consideration:

•    Who is registered with the vet, and on the pet’s microchip and insurance
•    The person who has provided the primary care for the pet during the marriage
•    Who originally bought (and paid for) the pet
•    The lifestyle of both parties, to ensure the potential owner would be able to care for the pet.

A court may consider yours or your ex’s emotional attachment and relationship with the pet. Your children’s relationship with the pet can also be a factor. You may be able to make a case that the happiness and wellbeing of your children may be affected if they don’t have access to a cherished family pet.

The court can decide who has legal ownership of the pet, but they can’t order one person to give their former spouse access. It will be up to the two of you to arrange visits, dog walks and overnight stays, or decide if you’d prefer no contact at all.

Advice for settling pet custody amicably

If you can, try your best to make an arrangement with your ex about pet custody out of court. This may be difficult, especially if you parted on bad terms or you’re worried about losing your pet.
Mediation can help with this, helping you both to work out the best arrangement for the health and wellbeing of your furry friend.

Your agreement may also depend on what pet you have. Shared custody can work for dogs, but you’ll need to but a clear schedule in place and agree on responsibilities with regards to training, insurance, vets bills and so on. But for cats, it’s usually best for him or her to remain in one place – but you can of course arrange visits.

You may have to compromise, and you may not end up seeing your pet as much as you’d like. But if you can avoid animosity, and the stress and expense of going to court, you should end up with an outcome that works for everyone.

Need help sorting out family arrangements during divorce, including pet custody? Get in touch with Liverpool divorce solicitor Tracey Miller Family Law – call on 0151 515 3036 or contact us online.