News and Events

Spanish Pets are Family. Will England Follow suit?

  • Posted


Pets, under new laws which came into force in Spain on 5th January 2022, are now treated by the courts as sentient beings.  

This means that pets are no longer treated as property but instead are to be considered in the same way as children as their ‘wellbeing’ must be considered at the point of separation.

The same highlights an extremely important issue in family law. 

What happens to our pets?

Sadly, under current English law in family cases, pets are treated more as objects rather than as beings in their own right.  

However, in cases involving children, the Court do take into account the impact that pet may have on a child. For example, if a child is going to be living with one parent, does separating that child from that pet cause the child emotional harm?  It can be an extremely delicate area to navigate and with 1 in 4 couples within the UK owing a pet, it is something which we all need to take note of.

The existing approach adopted by the Court in England and Wales is that they will factor in who the pet is registered to and who has cared for the pet previously. The Courts are much more inclined to ensure that that person has the pet in their care.  

It is hoped, in time, that the court will adopt an approach similar to that of when considering children; looking at

  • Risk of harm
  • The capability of each party to care for that pet
  • The likely effect of change upon the pet.

Obviously, the Courts are not able to adapt all of the criteria they consider for children such as wishes and feelings but the spirit of those criteria should be considered.

With countries like Spain adopting a new approach it is hoped that England and Wales follow suit. 

What can be done to protect our pets? 

Some couples may want to give thought to a “Pet- Nuptial Agreement”. These operate in the same way as a pre-nuptial agreement in that it provides for what should happen to the pet should the couple separate, who they will spend time with and whether any financial provision for the pet should be made and if so by who.

It should be said that such agreements are not legally binding. However, the same will carry significant weight to a judge if the couple have entered into the same freely, and ideally, with the benefit of legal advice.

Similarly, there is no good reason why a separating couple couldn’t enter into an agreement after separating. This can either be done through negotiation either between the couple themselves or via solicitors.

Another possible solution is to mediate on this issue. Mediation is a process in which the couple attend a 3rd party solicitor who will assist them in reaching an agreement. It is often a far cheaper and quicker solution than going down the Court route.

The final option is to look to go down the Court route. This should be the last option any couple takes as ultimately without agreement; a decision can be made by the Court which neither party wants. This also can come at a considerable cost and take a significant period of time to resolve.

If you require assistance then please contact or Darren White at FDR Law at our Warrington Office on 01925 230000 or by email at