Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we saw a substantial increase in the number of families purchasing pets and, understandably, these pets have become very important members of the family. However, this also means that there are increasing numbers of disputes over what happens to these pets if their owners decide to separate. An increasingly popular tool to avoid difficulties is to enter into an agreement at the outset about what will happen to the pet if their owners decide to separate.
In the context of a married couple, such agreements are commonly referred to as a ‘pet-nup’, with reference to the pre- or post-nuptial agreement they traditionally form a part of.
What can be included in a pet-nup?
Pet-nups can be tailored to your own unique circumstances.
The most common things to include are
Who the pet lives with, and/or how often the other party has contact with the pet
Who will cover pet expenses e.g. veterinary bills, pet insurance and other costs
Who will look after the pet when one party is on holiday
It is important to remember that you do not have to have a pet-nup. However, having a pet-nup in place can reduce conflict during a separation as the terms have already been agreed in happier times. It can also form part of a wider agreement on what should happen in the event of separation or divorce.
Considerations before entering into a pet-nup
A pet-nup may not be for everyone and there are a few considerations you must consider before entering into one, such as
Who bought the pet?
Are you and your partner amicable enough to share the care of a pet?
Do you have the flexibility and capacity to care for a pet?
Who primarily cares and pays for the pet?
If you have children, consider the potential emotional impact.
Is a pet-nup legally binding?
It is important to remember that, as with pre and postnuptial agreements, pet-nups are not automatically legally binding. However, if executed properly, properly drafted and entered into freely, the court is likely to rely on it when deciding what happens to your pet upon separation. They are therefore likely to be followed in the absence of a compelling reason not to.
If you find that you and/or your partner are considering entering into a pet-nup or would like some more information on this, then we can help. Our specialist family law team can advise you in detail about pet-nuptial agreements from both a legal and practical point of view.
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.