Former spouses Ant McPartlin and Lisa Armstrong have recently been back in the headlines – almost three years after their divorce – this time as they prepare for a fresh battle over custody of their pet dog.
While who might get to keep the pets in the event of a break-up may not be a priority discussion among happy couples, leading solicitor Brindley Twist Tafft & James (BTTJ) warns it can often be a contributory factor in bitter disputes among those who later break up.
Most importantly, any mutual decision should be formalised with an official legal document, or ‘pet nup’.
Most of us have probably made light-hearted comments at one time or another about keeping our pets in the event of a break-up. But without a formalised document such jokes can escalate into full-blown battles between former couples who have gone their separate ways.
We see pets as family and it is so easy for them to become yet another subject of dispute alongside the children, property, pensions and finances.
Once a couple has split up it is in the best interests of both parties to try to reach agreement between themselves over the welfare of a pet.
If no agreement is reached the couple may approach a solicitor who will suggest mediation or, as a last resort, court proceedings.
A pet nup is a detailed agreement between two partners which specifies who the pet lives with, who pays for the upkeep – food, vet bills, insurance and other costs, who decides on medical treatment and what will happen to the animal if the relationship breaks down.
We would always urge that an agreement is formally drawn up and legal advice is sought by both parties before signing the document. Then, if the relationship did break down, it avoids future conflict as to the welfare of the animal.
Some people are happy for their pets to live with one party during the week while the other takes care of them during holidays. Others are happy to look after the pet for half a week each.
As well as couples, pet nups are open to families and even friends who share pets. Although not yet formally recognised, law courts are still very likely to uphold pet nups if it can be proven that:
- Both parties entered into the agreement freely
- Neither party was under undue pressure or subject to misrepresentation
- Both parties sought legal advice
- Both parties intend that the agreement is final in governing future welfare of the pet
- Both parties understand the implications of the pet nup
- There is sufficient evidence within the document to prove that the pet nup is fair and in the interests of the pet.
Natasha Abel is a Family Law Solicitor at Brindley Twist Tafft & James Solicitors, where she deals with a whole range of family matters whether they are straight forward or very complex. She spends 40% of her working time on family matters and 60% of her working time on matrimonial matters.
As a member of Resolution, Natasha works in accordance with their Code of Practice to deal with matters in a constructive manner. Natasha works with her clients to provide support and explore all options including not only the court process, but other methods of dispute resolution to best suit their individual needs.
Natasha is also a member of the Law Society‘s Family Law Panel and has been accredited since 2011. Accreditations within the panel show that the individual is a specialist in their area of law.