We already know that pets are an integral part of a family and bring a great amount of joy and entertainment. At times, however, spouses have to make the difficult decision of deciding the arrangements for their pet if the marriage breaks down and there is a separation. As part of the arrangements for their pet, a decision also has to be made as to how the associated financial costs will be funded. Below are options that for deciding the financial arrangements for your pet:
1. Informal agreement
If parties reach a financial agreement on an informal basis then they are free to agree whatever financial arrangements they wish, including the financial arrangements for their pet. For example, how any costs associated with the pet will be met. However, if either party does not honour the agreement then there is very little recourse for the non-breaching party.
2. Separation agreement
Parties can alternatively enter into a separation agreement, which can include the financial arrangements for the family pet. A separation agreement is treated like a contract. Therefore, if either or both parties are in breach of any agreement then the non-breaching party’s recourse is to pursue a claim for breach of contract against the breaching party. This could be difficult, as the appropriate forum for resolving such matters is likely to be the family court and the expectation would be to seek a financial remedy on the back of a divorce.
Parties can resolve their financial matters with a consent order which is a legally binding and enforceable court order. There are often agreements that parties reach that are vital to their overall arrangements, but which are not within the court’s power to order. These are known as recitals. Recitals can be difficult to enforce as if they are not something within the jurisdiction of the court to make an order on then they are unlikely to be enforceable. Therefore, it is arguably best practice to make any agreement into a separate and clear contract so that in the event of a breach, the non-breaching party can pursue a claim for breach of contract against the breaching party.
4.Spousal periodical payments
The court has limited powers to make certain financial orders on divorce and the court does not have the power to make maintenance order for pets. However, there are creative ways in which you could include a maintenance order for pets but ensure that it is worded in a way which results in an order which the court does have the power to make. For example, a provision for spousal periodical payments (more commonly known as spousal maintenance) can be included which in reality is for the benefit of the family pet. The parties can specify the amount and term of the maintenance and whether that amount and term can be varied or not.
5. Lump sum order
The parties can agree to capitalise spousal maintenance and make a single lump sum or multiple lump sums order allowing the parties to have a clean break on their income claims. This would effectively ‘front-load’ the costs for the pet.
If your marriage has broken down and there is a pet involved or you are considering welcoming a pet into your marriage and then our specialist family law team can assist you in agreeing the arrangements for your pet or putting measures into place to ensure that any potential disputes arising in the future can be avoided. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require our assistance.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.