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Heidi Fleming

What is a petnup and do I need one?

28 May 2020

Heidi Fleming, Senior Associate in Divorce and Family Law, talks about what happens to your pet when your relationship has broken down

A dog, cat or any much loved family pet can be one of the most highly sought after issues to debate when reaching a financial settlement on separation. The family pet is often one of the most important members of the family. Positions can be polarised on who the trusted family dog should live with.

The legal position

The law is very clear that a pet is classed as a chattel. That means it is an item of personal property such as furniture or jewellery. In short, the person who bought the animal, and to whom it is registered, will keep it. However, if there is clear evidence the animal was subsequently gifted to the other party, then the person who received the animal will retain it.

What can you do if you want to keep the family pet?

With a growing increase of disputes involving a pet, the Law Society has suggested that you enter into a ‘petnup’. This is like a prenuptial or separation agreement and specifically deals with pets. The ‘petnup’ will state who the pet will live with, who will care for it, who will pay for vet fees and other expenditure such as insurance etc. The agreement is a contract and a court would very likely uphold the terms of it.

Considerations before putting up a fight

When separating, parties should consider:

1. Who bought the animal and to whom is it registered?
2. Who primarily cares for it and pays for it?
3. Who will look after the animal if you work abroad or go on holiday?
4. If you work full time is it really in the animal’s best interest to be left alone for long periods.
5. If you have children, consider the impact on them to be without the beloved family pet.
6. Are you amicable enough with your ex-partner that you could share the care of the pet and have a rota which suits you both

Should you get a petnup?

A ‘petnup’ is like a contract and the court is likely to uphold its terms if it complies with the contractual requirements, you have both sought legal advice and it has been correctly executed. By being clear on what should happen to the family pet upon separation then ultimately, you can avoid costly ligation and fewer solicitor letters on the issue in the future.

Contact our specialist Family Law team to discuss setting up a 'petnup' for your family member. Call 0330 0945 500, email or complete our Contact Form and we'll get back to you.

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