For many households, pets are loved and cared for as an integral part of the family, and we cannot imagine our lives without them. What happens to them when a marriage breaks down?
The legal status of pets in a divorce
While we may love them like children, our pets are considered personal property under Singapore law. Hence, they will be subject to the same process as any other assets the Court considers part of the matrimonial pool. If you and your spouse cannot agree on who should keep your family pets in the divorce, the Court will make the final decision when it settles the division of matrimonial assets.
No concept of custody
While the court has a decisive say in child custody arrangements, it will not do the same for your pets as they are considered property.
If you and your spouse are unable to settle the care arrangements between yourselves, you may opt for mediation, where a neutral third party will help you work toward a compromise.
Treatment of pets in Singapore’s courts
While animals are ultimately regarded as assets, the local court has also expressed some regard for their well-being.
In the case of Tan Huey Kuan (alias Chen Huijuan) v Tan Kok Chye and another  3 SLR 960, a divorcing couple were unable to agree on which party should care for their jointly owned dog, Sasha. To determine which party to grant ownership to, the High Court considered the following factors:
- Which party had been taking care of the dog;
- Which party was closer or more attached to the dog;
- Which party the dog itself was more attached to;
- Which party would be better able to take care of the dog and attend to all its needs;
- What the home environment for the dog was going to be like; and
- What would be in the dog’s overall best interest.
What you can do to improve your chances of keeping your pet?
You should provide any evidence that shows that you are the primary owner and caretaker of the pet.
For example, you may present receipts, vet bills, licence applications (where relevant) or bank statements showing that you have paid for the pet-related expenses regularly. It would also help if you have registered the pet in your name (where applicable).
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