Categories: Law

Cat and dog prenup agreements are a good idea

There is an increase in disputes, in the UK and perhaps in other countries, between divorcing couples over who should keep the cat or dog (and indeed any other companion animal). One possible reason is that in Britain there has been a steady decline in the birthrate which leads to an increased focus on companion animals as the family’s “child”. This in turn leads to an increased likelihood of an argument over who should retain custody of their “child”.

Cat and dog prenup agreements. Photo: North Shore Collaborative Divorce

In order to help both reduce the prospect of an argument over the family pet and if there is an argument to help resolve it quickly, a cat and dog prenup (prenuptial) is a good way forward. It means that the parties have agreed well in advance as to who should keep the animal on their separation.

Prenups of any kind are not legally enforceable in the UK but they do have a strong influence on a judge’s decision should the matter go to court. Therefore they’re worth doing. I’m told by The Times newspaper that many couples end up squabbling over pets.

The Law Society now recommends that custody issues should be addressed in a prenup agreement. They are meant to provide peace of mind.

It’s a little bit disturbing to be told that 25% of divorces result in a dispute over a pet according to the Blue Cross animal charity. In one case the husband wasn’t at all bothered about the finances or who should keep the family home. His sole focus was on who should retain custody of ‘his’ dog.

The television presenter Ant McPartlin argued with his estranged wife, Liz Armstrong, over who should keep their Labrador. Apparently they agreed shared custody or at least that is the current status. They have alternate weekend contact with their beloved dog at their respective homes.

Johnny Depp has another celebrity who had an acrimonious divorce with his former wife Amber Heard, which included custody over Pistol and Boo, the Yorkshire Terriers and a horse whose name is Arrow. All three of the animals ended up with Heard.

Ant and his labrador. Photo: xposure.

Examples of Pet Prenup Agreements

I’ve searched for some examples of pet prenup agreements but it doesn’t surprise me that you can’t find them. This is for the simple reason that lawyers make money out of drafting them so there is obviously little point in them publishing their work online.

Another difficulty for divorcing couples considering drafting their own pet prenup agreement is that to maximise the chance of it being enforced each party should seek the advice of a solicitor or attorney in America as this gives the document validity on the basis that the parties have sought advice and therefore fully understand the contents of the document.

You can probably get one drafted up by a lawyer for around 1,000 UK pounds or the equivalent sum in US dollars. You might be lucky and get it at half that price. You could try drafting it yourself by simply making a simple written agreement and by declaring on the document that you had both voluntarily and willingly dispense with legal advice knowing that it is available. I am sure it would carry some weight.

A final advantage of a prenup agreement regarding a pet would be that it might help stop either party using the pet as a weapon against the other. It is quite common in divorce cases for divorcing couples to use the child as a weapon against the other. This is usually the wife preventing the husband from seeing the children. No doubt the same sort of behaviour can occur with respect to cats and dogs but it won’t be the wife who is more likely to be at fault in this instance.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

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