Going through a divorce can be difficult, especially when you have not only your financial assets to worry about, but also a beloved pet.
Thu 09 Mar 2017
Going through a divorce can be difficult, especially when you have not only your financial assets to worry about, but also a beloved pet. A recent study carried out involving dog owners revealed that a quarter of all separating couples believe their dog would be the most important consideration if they separated, making pet custody a more relevant issue than ever before.
When a pet is co-owned, it can be difficult to decide who gets to keep it, especially when there may be children and other factors to consider. This post looks at your options for ensuring you are able to keep your pet when going through a divorce or separation.
Naturally, there is a closeness with a pet that cannot be compared with other items in a divorce, such as a car or expensive jewellery. Regardless, the law treats pets in the same category as such items. The relationship established by both parties with a pet can result in difficulties and a battle to win custody, often leaving one or both parties under financial or emotional strain.
A court may decide who will get to keep the family pet, should the parties be unable to agree. If the family pet is an area of contention, the court may come to a decision in order to break the deadlock, and will order a transfer of ownership in line with their decision. The court may also make provision for the costs of upkeep of the animal. This will be be come a factor in calculating income needs of the party keeping the pet.
However, where you’re are not married, there is always the risk, the court will base the decision on the most basic legal principle – the person who paid for the pet is who it belongs to. Although the court can make a decision regarding a pet, some judges are hesitant to do so, believing that financial agreements and other arrangements are more important that pet custody.
One of the easiest ways to resolve the issue of pet custody is to pre-empt the issue. This can be done by arranging either a cohabitation agreement (if you do not intend to marry) or a prenuptial agreement (if you are to marry). Such a document will lay out arrangements for the family pet and outline who the animal belongs to and who will have custody of the pet if the relationship is to breakdown. As well as offering custody of the pet, such agreements can also offer visitation rights or joint custody of the pet. However, this agreement can be difficult depending on your relationship ended.
According to a number of experts, pet prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly common. Holly Mcgrady of Family Law Edinburgh said:
“We have noted an increase in the number of people coming forward looking to include their pets in a prenuptial agreement.
“This shows that pet custody is becoming an increasingly contested issue in divorce and separation. The increase in the number of pet pre-nups demonstrates that people are becoming more aware of how they can protect their pets when sharing ownership with a partner.”
For many people, custody of their pets is paramount. If you have any concerns about the custody of your pet, Pet Owners Association advise that you take professional advice and access the options available to you.
Stephen Mcilkenny is a Digital Outreach officer for Curated Media, legal content and strategy specialists for law firms.