What happens to Fido?

12 Jun 2017 | GMW

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ACCESS Mssion Vision Feature           First published in ACCESS Summer 2017 magazine






What happens to Fido?

In 2005, Rhodesian Ridgeback named Paco caused a royal controversy. Dutch Princess Margarita was brought to court by her ex-husband, who wanted the court to award him visitation rights with the dog. What does Dutch law say about pets during divorce?



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Perhaps you started out your relationship by adopting an adorable puppy together, but now the relationship is ending. What happens to man’s best friend?   


Property dispute 

Dutch law treats your pet, whether it has fur, feathers, scales or otherwise, as a part of the household property. While the Dutch legislative authority is very careful in its wording regarding animals, for the purposes of settling a divorce, legally, the dog is the same as any other household good. This means there is no legal framework for visitation rights with a pet, like those with a child.  If the pet is considered joint property, ownership will be awarded during the settlement process to one of the parties. And you might think your pet python is priceless, but such a snake would be given a value in the property settlement. 


Should you or your ex-partner be unable to bear the thought of taking the couch but leaving Puss the cat behind, you can arrange for joint ownership. Sharing ownership of the cat would be similar to sharing ownership of the house. You and your ex-partner can negotiate when each of you has access.    It’s also possible that, if you brought little Puss into the relationship, you may be eligible to keep your cat after the relationship ends. 


The best interest of the pet 

Recently, however, a court in Limburg ruled that the best interest of the animal should be taken into account when determining custody. Animal experts advised the court that multiple homes for, in this case, a dog was not ideal. It’s not clear what ramifications this ruling may have on other divorce settlements and whether or not this will be the start of a new trend in pet-related divorce settlements.  


Princess Margarita’s ex-husband was denied visitation with Paco since, as a dog parent, no matter how much he loved his four-legged friend, is not eligible for parental visitation under Dutch law. If you want to ensure that your pets (and all of your other assets) are cared for during a divorce, lawyers at the Legal Expat Desk can assist you.  


We are specialised in family law for internationals living in the Netherlands. We can answer your questions regarding divorce, parenting plans, asset allocation and much more. Get in touch with one of our lawyers in our Family, Inheritance and Estate Planning today.  


Thijs Sarneel 

GMW lawyers 

Scheveningseweg 52 
2517 KW The Hague  
070 3615048 



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