We have all heard of pre-nuptial agreements, pre-marital agreements or pre-Civil Partnership agreements. Couples make an agreement deciding what happens to the house, furniture, bank accounts, cars, etc if the relationship fails. Although not strictly followed in this country in the same way as the USA or other countries, Courts are taking notice and following the terms of pre-nuptial agreements if possible.
What about the family dog, cat, goldfish or other pets? How do you or the Court decide where they live? Is it the same as dealing with the children?In divorce or relationship breakdown, pets are dealt with in the same way as personal belongings. They are ‘chattels’. I know it sounds awful, but legally they are no different than the sofa or a painting.
Although dearly loved by the family and part of the family, there is no law of ‘custody of pets’. Couples can argue about who keeps the family pet in the same way that they argue over who keeps the dinner service or the television. It can be an expensive process, and one as emotional as dealing with where the children live.In some cases, if couples cannot agree, the animals are re-homed or given to animal shelters.
So, what can we do to avoid the cost and emotional turmoil of what happens to Fluffy or Frodo or Nemo when couples split?
As pre-nuptial agreements are becoming more common in this country to deal with financial matters, we are following the lead of our friends in the USA and including pets in the agreement. Couples can decide who would take the pets should the relationship fail. Should custody be shared and if so how? Does the family dog spend one week with one person and the next with the other? Who pays for vet bills, insurance, food and other expenses? If there are two cats, is that one each or should the cats stay together?
Such agreements are not just for those who marry, unmarried couples can include their pets in living together or cohabitation agreements.
Most solicitors offer fixed fees for relationship agreements. Standard clauses are included, but there is also the flexibility of including clauses to suit your needs, which can include custody and care of your pets.
Finally, do not forget to provide for Fluffy and Frodo in your Will. It is important to decide who should look after them when you die, but also consider whether the person you give them to can afford to pay for their food, insurance and vet bills. Your friendly elderly neighbour may offer to take care of Fluffy, but may be living off a State Pension and have very little left each week to look after her. You should therefore think about leaving a sum of money for expenses.
We offer fixed fees for relationship agreements and Wills.