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Who gets the dog? Are pet-nuptial agreements actually real?

View profile for Francesca Cozens
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‘Who gets the dog?’ is now a very common question for family solicitors to be asked when they first meet clients who are separating from their partners. People form very close bonds with family pets, and no one wants to say goodbye to a beloved family pet, but how is it decided with whom an animal should live on parties’ separation?

One-in-four divorces involves a dispute over pets 

It is estimated that now one-in-four divorces involves a dispute over pets. Research by a leading pet charity, Blue Cross, states that dogs and cats are the most fought over pets, followed by horses, rabbits and guinea pigs.

In England and Wales, pets are typically treated as property, and the courts therefore apply property law. One question you might be asked, for example, is who purchased the animal? Other jurisdictions take a different approach. In the United States they combine this approach with a legal test looking at the best interests of the animal.

In England, in recent years, there has been a huge increase in people entering a pre-nuptial agreement before marriage, and a rise in post-nuptial agreements that are entered during a marriage. The media has made jokes about the need for people to enter ‘pet-nuptial agreements’ but why not take out the acrimony and pain of deciding where a beloved pet should live in the event of separation, just by incorporating a beloved family pet into a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement? It could save a lot of money and upset at a later stage.

If you would like to discuss this with our team of specialist divorce and separation lawyers, please contact us for a free, no obligation 15 minute chat. I am based in our Chelmsford office and can be contacted on 01245 453843 or francesca.cozens@birkettlong.co.uk.

Read our blog Pets in wills: A dog is for life - and after! to find how you can ensure your pet is always provided for. 

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