4 March 2011 by

Man’s best friend – not always!

As a family lawyer I often have to deal with disputes regarding children or what should happen to the matrimonial assets upon divorce, but I was really taken aback when I was recently asked by a client to advise on who would get Bingo, the family Labrador, whose name I have changed to protect his identity!

I had never been asked to advise on the division of a matrimonial pet before and to be perfectly honest I was unable to answer the question straightaway. After looking into the matter I was surprised to discover that there is in fact no specific legislation or case law that sets out how the court will deal with disputes regarding pets or what factors will be considered relevant when determining this very sensitive issue.

So how will the Court deal with a dispute regarding who should retain the family cat or dog? Well, in a nutshell, they will treat the pet in the same way as any other matrimonial asset – such as the TV, dining room table and chairs or garden fork! The difficulty with this approach is that, unlike proceedings relating to children, the court is not required to consider what is in the best interests of the pet and will simply treat it as an item of personal property that will be award to one or other of the parties.

This can result in a very harsh outcome for the unsuccessful party, as they will have no visiting rights or involvement with their pet after the decision has been made. A lengthy legal battle over who gets the family pet will also be very stressful and expensive and can often detract from the main proceedings, preventing an early resolution and increasing costs.

The best approach therefore remains to try and negotiate an agreement, as this will give the parties far greater scope to agree shared care arrangements, visiting rights and other issues that the Court simply will not get involved with.

If parties want to plan ahead in the event of any potential marriage breakdown then it is of course open to them to enter into a pre or post nuptial agreement, to record what will happen to the pet in the event of separation. Although pre-nuptial agreements are not currently enforceable, courts will take them into consideration, particularly if the parties have had independent legal advice before entering to the agreement.

1 March 2011 by Louise Dawson

Stamp Duty Increase

Last year’s budget may feel like a distant memory, however, the effects are about to hit the pockets of property buyers.

4 March 2011 by Matthew Miller

Lessons to be learned

At the end of last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) imposed 2 hefty fines for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) under powers that came into force earlier in the year.

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