I cannot imagine how difficult separation and divorce must be for the people involved. I have had the good fortune of being married to a partner that puts up with me and all my shit, and who is beautiful, kind, wonderful, and patient. Hello, my perfect wife. You are great and I love you very much.

Not all couples are as fortunate as we are, sadly. You and I both know that separations and divorces are a part of modern relationships. Perhaps you have been through one yourself, my dear reader, or have seen it happen to your friends or family members.

In this situation, emotions are at their highest when it comes to working out who gets custody of the children (an area I do not want to get into in this book, as it is incredibly complex and proper legal advice is essential), and in determining which partner gets what household items following a separation or divorce.

Many possessions of a divorcing couple tend to get allocated in a fairly straightforward and objective manner by our divorce laws. This is usually based upon who purchased a particular item and how much emotional connection each partner has to it. However, there is one particular possession that is very difficult to allocate fairly and cannot be divided or easily shared or traded. I am referring to any pets that are part of the family.

Divorce laws treat pets both simply, and harshly.

These laws give no recognition to what is in the ‘best interests’ of the pet in a divorce or separation situation. Rather, the court treats a pet like any other object or asset of a separating couple; something to be allocated to one partner or divided up between the couple (hopefully in terms of time each person can spend with the pet, rather than physical division of the pet). As far as the court is concerned, there is no difference in the way a court works out which partner gets to keep the puppy and which partner gets to keep the television or the ice cube trays.

A court’s decision on which partner gets to keep the pet, or how much time each gets to spend with it, is based on things like which partner introduced the pet into the relationship, who cared for it the most (that would be such a difficult thing to work out), and whether one partner or the other will be moving into new accommodation that is pet friendly (or unfriendly).

I can imagine many situations where this leads to a very bad outcome for the poor pet. What if one partner needed to leave the relationship quickly, due to violence or neglect? In these circumstances the partner fleeing is often forced to leave behind everything they own, and this could include a beloved pet. Some partners may end up staying in a difficult or dangerous relationship because they have nowhere to go that would also allow them to bring their pet. For example, many women’s refuges or care houses do not allow pets.

See what I mean about the law on pets in these circumstances being both simple and harsh?

My thoughts are with anyone going through, or who has gone through, a divorce, whether pets are involved or not. I wish you strength and courage, and apologise on behalf of the law for its inability to give any real comfort or relief. The law is, and must be, objective even when it comes to things like pets. Sadly, the intricacies and emotions of the human heart, and the best interests of any pets, just don’t have any place in a divorce case as far as the law is concerned.