Getting married is an exciting time. It is therefore the last thing on your mind to consider what might happen if the relationship were to breakdown. However, as marriage is a contract, when entered into it is wise to consider the protection of your pre-marital assets.
With an estimated 9.9 million dog owners in the UK last year, it comes as no surprise that nearly 30,000 divorces a year include resolving the matter of pet custody. Whether your preferred pet is a dog, cat, or budgie, one thing we can all agree on is that losing custody of our pets is something we would rather avoid.
One section of a pre-nup which is becoming increasingly common across recent months, is what is affectionately termed a pet-nup. This is an agreement which decides the custody of pets in the event of a relationship breakdown. It can prevent extensive legal battles over pet custody. It is not legally binding, but it can help a court to decide custody. This is the simplest way to help you end your relationship amicably should you get divorced from your partner.
Legally, pets are classified as property
At present, legally, pets are classified as personal property (or ‘chattel’), and given similar status to furniture or a car. It goes without saying that this might seem cold hearted, given that, quite rightly so, pets are seen as a much-loved member of the family. Unfortunately, that is how they are dealt with in a divorce court and as such, where there isn’t a pet-nup that states otherwise, it is proof of ownership that will generally be the deciding factor in pet custody matters.
What counts as proof of pet ownership in the UK?
Proof of ownership of a pet will vary from matter to matter, it can include, but is not limited to:
- Evidence of purchase.
- Registration with the Kennel Club for dogs or The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) for cats.
- Micro-chips and who that is registered to.
- Veterinary records.
What if both partners paid for the pet?
If this is the case, usually the court will decide that the pet should remain in the family home. They will not sort arrangements for visiting or for the financial support as they would with a child. However, when calculating the needs of the party who keeps the pet, the court may make financial provision for the care of the pet, such as vet bills or boarding costs (at kennels or catteries).
We are not planning to marry, but we do live together, can we do anything to protect pet custody?
Whilst marriage is one route to having a contractual agreement between partners, it is also possible to do through a cohabitation agreement. Read more about co-habitation agreements. However, for the purposes of this article, the agreement will allow you to set out a contract as to what should happen to assets in the event of a relationship breakdown. One such asset in this case would be your pet(s). With extensive experience in preparing such documents, we would be able to advise you as to what is involved, and whether this might be a good option in your circumstances.
How we can help
Whether you are in the process of getting married, you are co-habiting or you are planning a divorce, we will work with you to advise you on how best to approach the protection of your rights to custody of your pet.