Pets and partners – what happens in a break up?

With Love Your Pet Day taking place on 20 February, research has revealed that almost 49% of pet owners in the UK have as much love for their pet as they do for their human partner, with almost 15% of respondents loving their pet more than their significant other.

Men are more likely to be loyal to their partner, with 57 percent saying they love them more than their pet, compared to only 47 percent of women who love their partner more than their pet.

But with people so attached to their animals, many find themselves facing difficult decisions if their relationship falls apart. The research found a quarter would take legal action if they broke up with their partner because both would want to keep the pet.

Women are more likely to fight to keep their pet, with over a third (34 percent) saying they’d want to keep their pet more than anything else like the house or cars, with only 18 percent of men saying they would want to keep their pet over other belongings.

The risk of losing a beloved pet is causing some pet owners to take steps to make sure they get to keep their pet if they break up or divorce, according to the research commissioned by Maguire Family Law. One in ten has paid for all their pet’s equipment, food, toys, and vet bills and kept the receipts as evidence of their care of the pet, while 12 percent have registered the pet in their name only.

The research found one in 20 has a formal written agreement in place, outlining what will happen to any pets they have together if they separate in the future. Such agreements usually include who gets to keep and look after the pet.

People aged between 16 and 24 are most likely to have a written agreement, with 15 percent stating they have an agreement in place and 56 percent saying they’d consider getting one.

Only two percent of people in relationships aged 45 – 54 have such a contract, with 19 percent saying they’d consider one. The over 55s are the least likely to consider getting one with only two percent already having one and only 13 percent contemplating getting an agreement sorted.

Maguire Family Law has created its own version of a pet-nup, which is available here; but does not constitute legal advice and should only be used in accordance with specialist family law advice.

James Maguire, managing director of Maguire Family Law, said: “There have recently been a number of cases involving celebrities breaking up and falling out with their exes over who gets to keep their pet, and as more of these high profile fall outs make the media we expect to see an increase in enquiries from people looking to protect themselves and their pet in the unfortunate case of a break-up.

Although our research shows a third of pet owners in relationships think animals should be treated the same as children when it comes to breakups, unfortunately, the law doesn’t agree. Under current legislation in England and Wales, pets are treated as an item of personal property – the same as a piece of furniture, for example. Obviously, the emotional attachment to pets can be huge, which is why we see so much upset over who gets to keep them when a couple divorces. If you get an agreement in writing, there may be issues around its enforceability if there’s a dispute, but we find if a couple agrees on matters upfront, they usually stick to this.”

Over a third (36 per cent) of pet owners in a relationship think that in a break up the pet should go to the person who looks after it the most, 13 percent think the pet should decide, and one in ten thinks the person who has the most free time should look after the pet. A quarter thinks their ex should have to pay maintenance towards their pet if they broke up.

But it’s not all heartache. Although a fifth said they wouldn’t let their ex visit the pet after a breakup, 65 percent said they’d allow visits and a quarter would send their ex-regular updates via text, WhatsApp, email or social media.

Maguire added: “There are ways you can ensure breakups and divorces are as amicable as possible. Whilst getting a prenup isn’t always the most romantic way to start a marriage, it can save a lot of stress in the unfortunate event of a divorce – and if you have a beloved pet, consider getting a specific pet-nup drawn up at the same time. This can cover who will be the primary carer of the pet, any shared responsibilities and who will be responsible for paying costs such as vet bills. If you find yourself separating or divorcing, whether or not you’ve got a pet-nup in place, I’d always advise trying and resolve any issues through mediation rather than resorting to legal action, which can be expensive, time-consuming and, not to mention emotionally draining.”

Which pet owners are most likely to love their pet more than their partner?
• Guinea pig owners: 25 percent love their pet more than their partner
• Parrot owners: 25 percent love their pet more than their partner
• Horse owners: 24 percent love their pet more than their partner
• Rabbit owners: 23 percent love their pet more than their partner
• Hamster owners: 20 percent love their pet more than their partner
• Dog owners: 19 percent love their pet more than their partner
• Cat owners: 17 percent love their pet more than their partner
• Fish owners: 16 percent love their pet more than their partner
Victoria Moffatt
07795 077 577

About Maguire Family Law

The research surveyed 1254 adults across the UK who are in a relationship and have at least one pet.

Maguire Family Law is a specialist family law firm headquartered in Wilmslow, Cheshire with offices in Knutsford, Manchester, and London. Maguire Family Law boasts one of the largest teams of family law experts in the North, with expertise across the full range of family law matters, including divorce and related financial matters. The firm is also known for having handled a number of international child abduction matters.

James and his team represent a wide range of clients: people who simply want good quality, discreet and efficient legal advice and a solicitor who will represent their best interests at all times. The firm’s clients also include celebrities, ultra-high-net-worth and high-net-worth individuals.

Maguire Family is recommended by two independent guides to the Legal profession, The Legal 500, and Chambers and Partners. The Legal 500 says: has an ‘all-round strong team – there is no deadwood at all’. James Maguire is ‘extraordinarily clever on financial remedy divorce work, international financial divorce work, child law and international child law’.

Chambers and Partners describes Maguire Family Law as a well-reputed boutique.
James is a frequent media commentator on divorce and related family law matters, discussing international child abduction on BBC Breakfast, and ‘divorce day’ on BBC 5Live and BBC Radio Manchester. He is also a ‘go-to’ commentator across a range of broadsheet and tabloid publications.