Who gets the dog if we break up?
Arrangements for pets upon separation
When a couple separates, there are many things to sort out; arrangements for the children, the family home, adjusting to a new life, and often families have pets who also need to be looked after following separation. Dealing with the family pets can be a difficult issue to tackle as each member of the family will have an emotional attachment to the animal or alternatively, we have experienced times where the pet has been used by one party as a tool to try to hurt the other during the divorce process. Drawing up a ‘pet nuptial agreement’ may not be the first thing that comes to mind at this stressful time.
Whether you are married or not, the starting point for discussions about the care of family pets should be to have discussions yourselves about who owns the animals and who would be best placed to care for them. You may wish to attend mediation to assist you in reaching agreement about what will happen to your beloved pets. There are couples who decide to share custody of their pets, demonstrated in the case of Ant McPartlin and Lisa Armstrong, who agreed to share custody of their dog Hurley after their divorce. You could also consider Arbitration as an alternative to court proceedings. Arbitration will provide a binding decision about a discrete issue such as the family pet and is much quicker than the usual court process.
What happens to pets if we divorce?
Although many people consider their pets to be members of the family, the Court treats animals as personal belongings or chattels on divorce and will simply look to the legal ownership of the animal when deciding who the pets should be with. The welfare of an animal is not something the Court considers when making decisions about assets and personal belongings. Our family law team are able deal with the issue of family pets as part of the financial matters arising out of your separation.
If you are able to agree what will happen to the family pets following separation, you can record your agreement in a financial Consent Order. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to looking after pets after divorce but it needs to work for you and your family.
What happens to pets if we aren’t married?
For unmarried couples, matters are different. The ownership of your pet would be considered under Civil Law rather than Family Law. If there was a dispute over ownership of the animal, then you would have to make a Civil claim to the Court to assert and prove ownership. Unfortunately, we are not able to assist in these matters.
If you are planning to enter in to a cohabitation agreement with your partner to regulate how you will live together and set out what will happen to assets and liabilities upon separation, you could clearly set out how your pets will be looked after in the event you were to separate.
Do we need a pet nuptial agreement?
It is possible to enter into a “pet nuptial agreement” which would exclusively deal with the issue of how your pets will be cared for if you separated. This could reduce the stress and heartache you are likely to feel when you separate, knowing your pets will be well cared for. You will be able to draft the agreement with the welfare of your furry family member at the heart of it and although not legally binding it will provide evidence of intention if there was a dispute about the ownership of the animal in the future.
If you have a query regarding pets on separation or anything else raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact the family team at DAvid Gray who can offer advice and draw up an agreement on 01912329547.