Divorce? Spanish judge may impose ‘co-parenting’ over pet

Spanish couples who put a point behind their relationship will be easier to get joint custody of their pet from now on. A change in the law puts the welfare of pets above the administrative rights of their owners.

A dog, cat or other pet is no longer legally seen as an object belonging to one or the other partner, but as a full member of the family. โ€œAnd the welfare of that living creature must be taken into account,โ€ says animal welfare lawyer Lola Garcia to Reuters news agency.


Spain is rich in pets. If couples broke up, it was legally arranged so that the partner who once registered the pet remained the owner automatically. Now a judge has to determine which owner the animal is better off with. People are more likely if they are financially independent and get custody of the children, if any. But the judge may also decide to give both partners responsibility over the pet.

This happened for the first time last October, in a case in which lawyer Garcia mediated. Ex-partners from Madrid received joint custody of their dog. He has been staying with one boss for a month and then with the other boss for a month. With the amendment of the law, such a distribution must become more common

โ€œIn Spain, we have seen our pets as beings with awareness and feelings for a long time. The fact that Spanish law recognises that is an important first step,โ€ says Garcia.