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two pets, a dog and cat, sleeping together

LOCKDOWN PETS – Who gets custody if we split up?

1st July 2021 by Gemma Burden

Categories: What's New?
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One area that hasn’t suffered from the Covid pandemic is the pet industry with the increase in puppy purchases being a much published side effect of the working from home culture.

Another less positive side effect has been the increased stresses in family dynamics and as a result a much anticipated increase in separation and divorce.

So what happens with our much loved additions to the family when relationships go wrong?  Who decides?  What criteria apply?  Does the dog get a say?!

Family pets generally don’t get itemised on a schedule of assets to be divided, along with the family home and the pensions.  However, these much loved fur babies don’t get included in an application for a child arrangements order either.  Yet, joking aside, they can understandably be the cause of emotional distress, worry and concern, so a solution needs to be found.

The advantage of mediation is that it can help with reaching an agreement over all manner of issues and isn’t limited to the constraints of what the law says or what orders are possible.  Therefore, in the mediation arena the family pet can be put firmly on the agenda and all options can be explored.

Here are some considerations that could help:

  • Holiday pet care – there will come a time when you will want to go on a day out or a holiday away and need someone to look after your pet. You want to leave them in the capable hands of a familiar face who knows and understands their needs.  Is your ex-partner the answer?  If so, isn’t there a benefit to be gained from a flexible pet care arrangement?
  • When you start going back into the office post lockdown, who will have your pet or will they spend many lonely hours on their own? Is your ex likely to be available?  If so can you both share time with the pet to suit your own working arrangements and keep your pet happy?
  • Would it benefit your children to be able to have time with their much loved companion at both homes? Does that provide them with some consistency and comfort when moving from one home to the other?
  • Life can be busy – juggling work, kids, their activities, and your activities. Could it help if your ex-partner takes on some dog walking duties?
  • Could sharing care of a pet also lead to a sharing of the finical responsibility too?

The above are just a few examples of how a mediator can help challenge the unhelpful ‘It’s mine’ ‘I’m entitled’ ‘It’s might right’ dialog so often held at the beginning of discussions.  An impartial, pragmatic mediator can take the emotion out of a situation and help separated couples see things from a different angle.  That approach can apply to the family pet as much as it can apply to the division of money and property or the division of time spent with children.  So when it comes to your pets, keep the options open, explore all possibilities and be willing to try things out.



Gemma Burden

Partner — Mediation

Direct dial: 01202 377993


Gemma Burden, head of Family Mediation, Laceys Solicitors
  • “As it was mediation for divorce I was worried just how complicated it would be but it was all handled well by Gemma who put my mind at ease and explained everything well. Thank you. ”

    John Littlefield

  • “Gemma was able to help us narrow the issues between us so we could focus on resolution. I feel she treated us both equally and professionally.”

    Maria Vine

  • “Gemma seemed to quickly understand our situation and acted accordingly and in what I felt with best interest.”


  • “I was very happy with Gemma Burden. She was very clear and to the point. Gemma Burden was very good at staying neutral. This must be very hard sometimes. She is very professional and is very good at explaining all points in mediation. I would recommend Laceys Mediation to all. I would give Gemma Burden top marks in all aspects of mediation and she has my thanks.”


  • “Having used Laceys before, it was an easy choice to use them again. Gemma was professional, polite and thorough. An absolute credit to the company.”

    A Wood

Gemma is the head of our mediation department and a Family Mediation Council Accredited lawyer mediator. Gemma qualified as a solicitor in 2000 and joined Laceys in 2001. She has specialised in family law since qualifying as a solicitor and has worked full time as a mediator since 2009.

Gemma is qualified in all areas of family mediation, including divorce and financial settlements, child arrangements and property disputes between cohabitees.  She is also qualified to see children as part of the mediation process.  Gemma is able to draw on her legal expertise when helping couples work out complex financial settlements and new parenting arrangements.

In her spare time Gemma likes to spend time with her family, especially her dog who never answers back.  Her chosen stress beaters are running, swimming and the beach.

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