This week’s family law news: “quickie divorce” and who keeps the pet pig - Kuits Solicitors Manchester
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This week’s family law news: “quickie divorce” and who keeps the pet pig

This week’s family law news: “quickie divorce” and who keeps the pet pig

17 Oct 2018

The “highlights” of celebrity break up news in this week’s tabloids are undoubtedly Ant McPartlin’s “quickie divorce” from wife Lisa and Ariana Grande’s split from fiancée Pete Davidson.  We take a closer look behind the headlines to bust some popular myths.

There is no such thing as a quickie divorce

Contrary to what the tabloids may be telling you, Ant McPartlin is not divorced.  The “quickie divorce” he was granted on Tuesday was in fact the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi in the divorce proceedings issued by his wife.

Decree Nisi confirms that the petitioner has successfully established that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and is therefore entitled to obtain a Decree Absolute to end the marriage.  However – the petitioner cannot then apply for the Decree Absolute until at least six weeks and one day have passed since Decree Nisi has been pronounced.

Family lawyers often get frustrated at the mis-reporting of the Decree Nisi as a “quickie divorce” because, quite understandably, if you are going through a divorce yourself and see somebody else obtaining what you understand to be a much quicker and more straightforward divorce than you, this is bound to raise questions.  In reality, celebrity or not, any individual going through the process will have to follow the same legal steps.  There is no special treatment for Ant and Lisa on this occasion.

(Arguably, should they have wished for greater privacy in respect of their divorce, Lisa’s solicitors could have considered issuing the divorce proceedings in an alternative court – the Central Family Court, where the proceedings have been dealt with, is widely known to have press attendance on a daily basis, who will scan the court lists to look for recognisable names.)

Who keeps the pets?

In other news, Ariana Grande has split from her fiancée ahead of their marriage.  The couple do not live within the jurisdiction of England and Wales, but if they had what would the law say about what should happen to their pet pig and Ariana’s engagement ring?

Sadly, the law does not yet recognise pets as “family” and nor can it treat pets in a similar fashion to children.  If you separate from your partner and can’t agree who should take the pets, there is unlikely to be any hard fought custody battle within the family courts any time soon.  On a divorce, the court can (and increasingly does) consider the issue of family pets, but when a cohabiting couple separates there is no like-for-like financial application that either party can make in which the court could consider this issue.

On a strict legal basis, pets are property in England and Wales.  In the event of a dispute, parties will be required to recover evidence detailing financial events such as who paid for the pet, who maintained its insurance, etc.  If you wanted to be creative about it you could potentially argue that a partner who had contributed to the pet’s expenses and care may have a shared interest in the property (pet) and the pet should therefore be split.  If one were talking about a car, the most likely outcome is that the car would be sold and the proceeds split between the parties in accordance with their respective interests.  This is unlikely to be the preferred outcome for a much loved pet.

Luckily for Ariana and Pete, it appears that they were able to agree who would keep the pig between themselves and without the need for any litigation.  This remains the ideal scenario for separating couples who have their pets’ best interests at heart.  If you find yourself struggling to agree an arrangement which both parties are happy with, mediation is likely to be the next best option.

Finally, just to touch on the engagement ring that Ariana has supposedly returned to Pete.  In England and Wales, an engagement ring is presumed to be an absolute gift, meaning there is no obligation to return it in the event that an engagement or a marriage breaks up.  However, this presumption can be rebutted if it can be proved that the ring was given on the condition that it would be returned if the marriage did not take place or broke down in the future.

To speak to a family law expert about any of the issues raised here, please contact us.

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