Hannah Mills, Solicitor in the Family team at BPE Solicitors, discusses what happens to pets in the event of a relationship breakdown and the concept of ‘Pet-Nups’.
We have always been a nation of pet lovers and whether you’re a dog, cat, rabbit or hamster person, our companions mean a lot to us. The various lockdowns as a result of Covid-19 have highlighted this, with a huge increase in those purchasing domestic pets. Figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association demonstrate that an estimated 3.2 million UK households have acquired a pet since the beginning of the pandemic. It therefore appears to be a better time than ever for couples to consider putting in place arrangements for the care of their pets, in the event of a relationship breakdown.
At present, the only way in which to determine the arrangements for a pet, should there be a dispute, is to make an application to Court. Such proceedings can be expensive, stressful and lengthy.
In order to avoid costly litigation with an unknown outcome, entering into a Pet-Nuptial Agreement early that would provide clarity over the owners’ intentions upon future separation would be a sensible solution.
Although in the UK Pet-Nuptials are not currently legally binding, they can be a good way to ensure that separating parties have taken the opportunity to think about how the care of their pet would be met when they are living separately. The Agreement can be drafted on a bespoke basis but would usually clarify ownership, care arrangements, responsibility for insurance, ongoing veterinary bills and day to day care expenses, holidays, breeding and more. The Agreement would be entered into with the understanding that both parties intend to be bound by it should they separate in the future and it is important therefore that those involved understand the implications of entering into such an Agreement, which is where we are able to assist.
The concept of ‘custody’ of pets has received more prominence in recent years with high profile cases in the media such as Ant McPartlin and his ex-wife Lisa Armstrong agreeing a custody arrangement for their pet Labrador as part of their divorce settlement. I am sure there are many out there who would want to ensure there is clarify and consistency over the arrangements for their pets should their own relationship change in the future. As a dog owner myself, I can completely understand the emotional turmoil that could come with a separation where pets are involved. They are, after all, an additional family member. Deciding on the terms of a Pet-Nuptial now can help to reduce the emotional stress and upset at the time of separation.
If you and your partner have a pet and would like to discuss the idea of entering into a Pet-Nuptial Agreement in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact me, either by email: Hannah.firstname.lastname@example.org or directly by phone 07468 720588
LinkedIn: BPE Solicitors LLP