Pet-nuptial agreements – avoiding a costly disagreement involving your pet(s)

One area our family team come across time and again when dealing with divorce matters, is the issue of pets and where they should live after a couple separate. Emotions are often already running high and, as we all know, many people regard their pets as part of the family. Finding a mutually acceptable solution to who has the pet dog, cat or sometimes something more exotic like a snake, can be difficult and occasionally bring the entire divorce process to a halt for an extended period.

Though we may feel very differently about our pets then we may do about a record collection or item of furniture, currently in the UK the law regarding pets during a break-up or divorce, is the same as the law for dealing with any other asset. Some pets can have a substantial financial value as well as emotional. This may not be regarded as important by some owners, but it can be regarded, by others, as a vital factor in why they want to take ownership of a pet.

The emotional aspects of pet ownership are not taken into account by the courts if they are asked to make a decision over ownership. If the individuals themselves cannot come to an agreement over what happens to their pet, the courts will make a decision based on processes not a million miles away from how it approaches where children should live after divorce. Obviously though you cannot ask a pet for their preference with regard to this decision!

The factors a court would consider whilst working towards a decision with regard to where a pet should live, include the following:

    • What home is most suitable for the pet’s welfare?
    • Who purchased the pet in the first place?
  • Has one party been responsible for the costs of paying for food and veterinary costs?
  • Who is able to provide the care and attention needed for the pet?
  • Are there other financial aspects in terms of the ability to pay for a pet’s upkeep that need to be considered?

How can you avoid getting caught up in a dispute?

Pre and post nuptial agreements have become a lot more common between partners who are intending to get married and, sometimes, are already married. These agreements seek to provide a framework for how assets will be divided should a marriage end and therefore avoiding unnecessary and costly disputes.

A pet-nuptial agreement is similar to a pre or post nuptial agreement in that it is a plan agreed at the outset of a relationship, that puts the pet’s welfare ahead of individual disagreements and removes the problems of having to decide who gets the pet under circumstances of emotional duress.

The pet-nuptial also means that couples are taking the welfare of their pet seriously and is also indicative of a grown-up approach to their own relationship. Things can go wrong between individuals, no matter how much we start with the best intentions.

Pet-nuptials are not currently legally binding in the United Kingdom; however, the courts will take the agreement seriously and it will help structure the final decision about what happens to your pet if you do end up divorcing.

What guidelines does a pet-nuptial follow?

 A pet-nuptial agreement usually includes factors laid out under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. There are various factors involved but the main provisions you will be agreeing to involve the requirement to provide a suitable living environment, a suitable diet, the provision of an environment where your pet can be protected, express their normal behaviour patterns and be free from any risk of suffering or disease risk.

How the rhw Family Team can help draft a pet-nuptial agreement

 Initially we would advise you to contact us for a chat about your situation. In the same way before considering any agreement, you and your partner should talk through, in case of a divorce all the factors you wish to include in the agreement. For example, this could include, who would be the primary carer, how are you are going to pay for your pet’s veterinary treatment, how are you going to share time with the pet and who will be providing exercise etc?


rhw Solicitors in Guildford (logo) Call our friendly team and we can draft a bespoke arrangement that will provide you with peace of mind and a way to ensure your pet has their best interests taken into account in the future.

Call rhw Solicitors in Guildford on 01483 302000 or email family@rhw.co.uk