Pets have long since been part of families all over the country and so it is unsurprising to hear that more and more frequently they are at the heart of any separation dispute.
Considering Pet Care in Separation
Many people will consider that the question of who will care for the family pet after separation should be a carefully thought out one. Some will deem it as important a decision as where the children will live and should be treated as such.
The approach taken by the Courts in England and Wales upon separation however does not allow for considerations to be made regarding the welfare of any pet or the emotional ties the parties will have towards them. The harsh reality is that pets will be considered as property, much like a sofa or a car. Although this seems difficult to understand, the Court cannot make any type of living arrangements when it comes to a family pet.
Interestingly, the state of Alaska has recently introduced a statute which treats the consideration of pets more like children. Judges are required to take into consideration ‘the well-being of the animal’ when determining the arrangement for any pet. Their default option is to assign joint custody of the pets, like the preferred option for children. No doubt there would be much support for a similar approach to be adopted here.
Is a Pet-Nuptial Agreement the solution?
At least at the moment however, to avoid the emotional ordeal of determining who should have the right to custody of a pet, any agreement regarding the care of the animal on separation should be formally recorded. A ‘Pet-Nuptial’ agreement can be entered into between parties to clearly set out the arrangement for any pet in the event of a separation or the end of cohabitation.
Alternatively, if parties are due to be married or are married, a Pre-Nuptial or Post-Nuptial Agreement or in the case of cohabiting couples, a Cohabitation Agreement, can include the agreement in relation to any pets along with other considerations that would be made on separation.
Our Family and Relationships team are accredited by Resolution first for Family Law. We work in your best interest to reduce conflict and reduce emotional burden throughout the process. For more information on divorce, separation and how we can support you through a relationship breakdown. Contact our team today on 01284 767766.
Please note this article is provided for general information purposes only to clients and friends of Atkins Dellow LLP. It is not intended to impart legal advice on any matter. Specialist advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that the information in this article is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.
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