Pet-nuptials: Looking out for the family Pet after separation

Darcy the Hine Downing clumber-cocker spaniel

Spain, the home of bullfighting, has become the latest country to ensure that judges have to consider the welfare of family pets within divorce proceedings. France and Portugal already have similar laws in place and it seems strange that the UK, with our well-known adoration of our fluffy friends, is lagging behind in this area.

In recent years we have seen an increase in disputes about where the family pooch is going to live. Some of these disputes have been more vicious than the issue of with whom the children will live. No, not really, but it really can get nasty at times. Here in the UK dogs and cats are treated more like objects and are termed in law as “chattels”, just as the car and the sofa would be. Therefore, the dispute lies around their ownership rather than their welfare. Which can be difficult news to break to a client. And this can end up costing huge sums of money. Judges simply loathe being asked to decide with which party a pet should remain. It’s understandable – the courts are absolutely bursting at the seams right now with children disputes and, of course, these must be prioritised.

However, is it time for us to start looking at what should happen to the family pets on separation in a better way? Perhaps “pet-nuptials”? You may laugh, but they do exist. And these pet-nuptials can either be prepared as a kind of pre-nuptial agreement (and so agreement is reached about what should happen if there were to be a break-up in the future) or when the break-up actually happens to confirm an agreement brokered then. And it’s important. Our canine, feline, feathered, scaled and slimy companions are devoted to us and dependent on us to make the right decisions for them.

At Hine Downing we offer a free 30 minute appointment in which initial advice can be given on the next steps to take. Please do give us a call and book an appointment to meet with a member of our experienced family team.