16 February 2015
1 in 4 Divorces Involves a Dispute over Pets – Got a Pet-Nup Agreement?
The benefits of Pre-nuptial Agreements are well documented, with many Family and Divorce Solicitors confirming that they can help avoid unpleasant litigation over assets when a relationship fails. However this week, animal charity Blue Cross, supported by the Law Society, has urged people to consider in advance what would become of their pets, not just their assets, were the worst to happen, and to enter into a “Pet-nup” agreement specifying what should happen.
The Blue Cross charity undertook research which suggests that as many as 25% divorcing couples argue over the fate of the family pet/s, and although cherished animals may be as important as any other family member, there is limited scope for a Court to decide their fate.
The charity has also reported seeing an alarming number of partners taking a pet to be re-homed without the knowledge or consent of the other, something we as Divorce Solicitors have seen numerous times, and which can cause untold heartbreak.
There is no limit on what a Pre-nuptial Agreement can cover and there is no reason why these agreements cannot consider arrangements outside of the usual realm of bank accounts and properties. Certainly, we would recommend that anything which can make a separation less painful and less complicated is worth considering even if at the time, it may seem overkill, especially having seen the distress some people getting a divorce have gone through when arguing over the fate of their animals.
The research and plea for “pet-nups” forms part of a wider consideration that communication is key and that it is always worth discussing expectations and priorities when entering into a long term commitment (living together contracts known as Cohabitation Agreements can be drafted as an alternative to pre-nups for people in committed relationships who do not marry).
Whilst people always think about protecting their financial assets on a split, the fate of beloved pets is rarely addressed until the worst happens, and many people dealing with custody of their pets stress that the animal is more important to them than money. It therefore makes sense to have a discussion about who will home the family pets in the event of a separation or divorce.
Certainly the plea from Blue Cross is not to take rash steps, such as rehoming a pet in anger, as this can cause undue distress and suffering to the animal as well as to the couple.
For anyone in the middle of a separation and having difficulty agreeing the arrangement for finances, children or pets, or considering a pre-nup or living together contract, we have one of the largest teams of specialist lawyers in the country and can advise on all aspects and issues arising from relationship breakdown.
Cara Nuttall is a Senior Family Law and Divorce Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer both flexible pricing and fixed price Family Law services including prenups, postnups and yes, pet-nups too!
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