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When a couple separate, often the focus turns to dealing with the finances, property, and the parenting of any children, but what happens to the pets? With the rise in pet ownership because of lockdown, is a pet-nup the new pre-nup?

We are a nation of pet lovers, and many of us find comfort and peace being with our pets. When a relationship has broken down and your partner/spouse is no longer greeting you at the front door with warm arms, it is often your pet running over to you with nothing but joy and excitement. Similarly, nights in catching up on box-set dramas may now entail cosying up to your pet on the sofa (if they are allowed!).

Unlike in children law where a judge has the powers to make a Child Arrangements Order setting out who a child will live with and spend time with, no such alternatives exist when it comes to pets, and it will be for the separating couple to agree plans. This can of course be difficult as emotions may be running high, and it is likely that both individuals will want to continue caring for the pet. It is for this reason that couples with pets may find it helpful to agree arrangements when the relationship is stable, or at the time of acquiring the pet, to avoid any disputes if the relationship breaks down.

In recent years, couples and spouses with pets have been preparing pet-nuptial agreements which set out the arrangements for the pet’s care should their relationship breakdown. They provide details of who the pet will live with, when the other person sees the pet, what will happen if one party relocates, and how the cost of pet food, pet insurance and veterinary bills will be handled.

Like pre-nuptial agreements (for couples before they get married) and cohabitation agreements (for unmarried couples living together), whilst not automatically legally binding in England and Wales, if they have been properly and freely entered in to, the courts will carefully consider them.

A pet-nup can bring couples peace of mind, knowing that arrangements are in place for them to still spend time with their pet and that their pet will be looked after should the relationship break down. Debenhams Ottaway’s family team can help you with the preparation of cohabitation agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, and pet-nuptial agreements.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.