Who keeps the pet? Rise in pet custody battles during divorce

New insight into divorce trends has shown that pets are now being brought into divorce custody proceedings, similarly to children.

We recently surveyed the lawyers on our site about new divorce trends they’ve noticed within the last five years, and interestingly the main trend that came out of our research was that there’s an increasing number of people having custody battles over their pets – like with children.

The majority (85%) of the lawyers answered that they have seen a rise in this since 2014. A quarter (26%) say that families consider pets like children and two thirds (62%) think that the rise in pet custody battles is because people are more emotionally attached to their pets today.

In the same survey, more than half (52%) have seen a ‘significant increase’ in the number of clients writing pet custody agreements into prenuptial contracts as well, with a third (34%) say there’s been a general increase in prenuptial agreements in the UK. According to the survey results, women receive full custody of the pet in three out of five cases and less than a tenth (8%) result in joint custody. However, a tenth (11%) of the time, the couple decide to re-home the pet altogether when a decision can’t be reached.

Pets are usually treated as personal property in law and are subsequently awarded to the person who bought the pet, however 77% of the lawyers surveyed said this is being challenged more and more by clients.

Kai Feller, Bark.com co-founder, said,

“I don’t think this new trend is particularly surprising, pets become a part of the family and if that family splits, a disagreement about who the pet stays with is a very likely outcome.

“It’s clear from our survey results that there are ‘trends’ in divorce proceedings, just like with anything else in life and while 20 years ago the main dispute may have been over a house, pets are starting to take centre stage in legal battles.”

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