Do you need a pet-nup?

Many of us love our pets and so the thought of losing them, for whatever reason, can be terrifying.

But what happens to our dogs, cats, fish and other furry critters when a marriage or civil partnership ends?

Previous research from Direct Line Pet Insurance revealed that as many as 111,000 UK divorce cases in a single year contained disputes relating to pets.

During divorce proceedings, where matters cannot be settled outside of court, it often falls on judges to decide who should retain ownership of a pet.

Although it may seem harsh, the law sees a beloved pet as an item of property. To the Courts, animals are just another asset, such as a home or car.

During their decision, the judge might take into consideration who legally owns the pet, who purchased it, who supports its care and other factors.

Often a judge will tell the couple to decide between themselves the best course of action for their pet. However, they have also been known to order that the pet be sold, and the sale’s proceeds divided between the couple.

This typically only happens where an animal has a high monetary value, for example, a pedigree dog or cat, or a racehorse.

Why you should consider a pet nup

As you can imagine, the process outlined above can be heart-breaking and a real point of contention and dispute during divorce proceedings, which can drive up court costs.

While no one wants to consider separation when they get married or enter into a civil partnership, the reality is that about 42 per cent of marriages in the UK end in divorce.

To avoid a difficult and emotional dispute or legal battle, it is worth putting a written agreement in place that clearly defines who takes ownership of the family pet in the event of separation.

Commonly referred to as a pet nup, this can also outline financial commitments from both parties for the care of the pet and rights regarding visitation.

These types of agreements are becoming far more common and will be taken into consideration by the Courts during proceedings, even if they are not legally binding.

Of course, the types of agreements can also be included within regular pre- and post-nuptial agreements, should you choose to create these documents.

To find out how we can help you with the creation of a pet-nup, pre-nup or post-nup, please speak to our Family Law team today.

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