dogs under blankets with only their noses showing

Whether it’s who will keep a nostalgic piece of jewellery or where Gismo the cat will spend out his days negotiations and discussions around the division of contents, family pets and possessions can take up a lot of time.  Which in turn can cause divorcing couples to incur a significant amount in legal fees.

Belongings and Contents

The court prefers to avoid getting involved in disputes and arguments relating to possessions simply because of the costs involved and the fact that these days, judicial input and court time is at a premium.  That said, these matters still need to be resolved as part of the over all divorce and financial settlement.

Often parties will feel very strongly about some items and possessions as they can hold sentimental value or may have been specifically gifted to one person during the marriage.  The default position is that each person will retain the contents and belongings in their possession at the time. However, when it comes to wedding gifts, jewellery, artwork and engagement rings, this is not always easy. Generally speaking, engagement rings will be given as a gift and therefore the recipient cannot be forced to return the item. Items of sentimental value may hold specific weight as will those items of higher financial value such as art, antiques or valuable jewellery. Ultimately, if the court does become involved, the judge will have regard to both parties’ needs and those of any children in assisting with a fair division of contents.

If the division of contents is going to be disputed, it is best to broach the subject at an early stage. This is because you do not want to delay the whole settlement, which will cover all the main assets of the case such as housing, pensions and businesses assets, just because the division of belongings hasn’t been tackled.

Best practice is to draw up a schedule of household contents so a tick-list can been used to show which person wants to retain which items. This can narrow down the items in dispute and save significant time. Again, it is not always worth spending lots of time and resource on discussing contents because the court will attribute a second hand resale value to possessions and then it quickly becomes disproportionate to enter into protracted correspondence and argument.


The Court does not have jurisdiction to make orders over pets.  This includes making orders to maintain pets or make orders covering the party with whom the animal will live or, if that time is to be shared, how the mechanics of that will work. However, they can make orders as to “assets and property” and arguably, pets are deemed to be “property” so certain specific orders can be made if a dispute arises.

That said, whilst pets are often the subject of much correspondence and the focus of many matrimonial disputes, the court is limited in what it can do to assist and often the costs of arguing out these issues in court quickly become disproportionate. Therefore, similar to matters surrounding contents, these issues should be raised at the outset because otherwise, they run the risk of delaying the overall financial settlement.