LEGAL COLUMN: Consider in advance who gets the pet should worse happen and relationship ends

An estimated 3.2 million UK households have acquired a pet since the first lockdown in March 2020, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, writes Louise Sheasby of Blythe Liggins.

Increasingly, many of us turned to our pets when isolated from friends, family and work colleagues for months on end.

Our ever-faithful pets have become our companions.

In particular, the demand for dogs since the first lockdown has led to prices skyrocketing.

Of course, if your dog likes mud you may not wish to keep him!

A pedigree dog can now quite easily cost £3,000 to £5,000, if not more.

Have you ever given any thought as to what might happen to your beloved pet if you and your partner were to separate?

Sadly, the courts will not deal with pets in the same way as children.

A Child Arrangements Order allows a judge to set out where a child is to live and who they can spend time with.

However, a pet does not have any legal status.

A pet is basically treated like a chattel, to be divided up with the car and the flat screen TV.

Even before Covid-19, there had been a few high-profile celebrity splits where the couples disagreed about who the dog should live with, resulting in hugely expensive court proceedings.

This can be emotionally and financially distressing.

It’s why some family lawyers are now offering ‘pet-nup’ agreements.

Couples are being encouraged to think about what would happen to their much-loved cat or dog if they were to separate.

A pet-nup agreement can set out things like where your pet lives if you separate, how often they can see the other party, who pays vet insurance and the purchase of food.

Like pre-nup agreements for couples who plan to marry, and living together agreements for cohabiting couples, the judge will more than likely respect the decision of the parties, even though it is not automatically legally binding.

This is providing the agreement is properly drafted and both have entered into the agreement freely and without any pressure being put on them.

We actively encourage our clients to consider this when taking instructions, to ensure pets are cared for as part of the family.

For more information about pet-nups and more, call 01926 831231 or email [email protected]