Family lawyers five top tips for avoiding animal angst

Resolving separation disputes


Splitting with a partner is difficult enough but losing custody of your pets can make breaking up even more traumatic.

Alison Straw, family lawyer of national law firm Irwin Mitchell, whose West Yorkshire offices are in Queen Street, Leeds, says people tend to behave irrationally when upset, and this can lead to bad decisions.

To mark National Pet Week (29 April to 7 May), she is therefore recommending the following five top tips for West Yorkshires couples to keep in mind when it comes to avoiding and resolving pet squabbles:

  • The best plan is attempt to resolve the issue of who keeps the dog, cat or budgie after a break-up at the outset of a relationship, by asking a solicitor to draw up a pre-nuptial or other written agreement specifying this.
  • If separation becomes inevitable and there are no written agreements, the biggest favour you can do yourself is stay rational. If possible, therefore, come to a sensible agreement in relation to ownership of property and belongings, including pets, without resorting to the courts.
  • It may help to look back and remember who the pets were originally for and whether one of you was their main carer...these factors can help determine who has the moral right to keep them.
  • Paws for thought - a pet custody battle taken to court could cost between £5,000 and £10,000. Resorting to law can also be time-consuming and could increase bad feeling and emotional turmoil at an already difficult time.
  • Where there is more than one pet involved, splitting them up can affect the animals adversely. So if you cannot agree about one of you having ownership rights over all the creatures, consider joint custody or arrangements for contact in the future.

Have you got a claim? If we can help you or someone you know with a similar case, please visit our Family Law section.