Legal advice from Jennifer Roulston, family law partner at FDR Law, Walton Road, Stockton Heath
Pre-nups for pets?
Q: I’m about to marry but I’m concerned who would get our pet labrador if the marriage broke down. Is it possible to make a pet part of a pre-nuptial agreement?
A: If you think your dog could become a bone of contention if your marriage failed, it would be wise to include her in a pre-nuptial agreement. That way everything is clear and agreed beforehand. Nobody walks down the aisle expecting their relationship to break up but if the worst happens, at least this will help you avoid an acrimonious legal battle over your pet.
In addition to children, money and property, dogs are increasingly featuring in divorce settlements, with judges being called upon to decide custody and dog visiting rights.
A recent survey by The Dogs Trust reported that 27 per cent of dog owners already in a relationship said their four legged friend would be the most important thing to claim custody over if they broke up. One in five said deciding who gets the dog would be as stressful as who should look after the children.
And you are not alone in thinking about a pre-nuptial agreement. The Trust found nearly a third of dog owners were so attached to their pooch, they would consider protecting their relationship with ‘man’s best friend’ by taking out a pre-nup.
Sadly dogs have become the new divorce battle ground and some people are using them as bargaining chips in the ‘who wins what’ war. Occasionally people are taking on the care of dogs when they don’t have the time or financial resources to look after them properly. The Dogs Trust reports a massive 290 per cent increase in dogs abandoned due to relationship breakdown in recent years.
As the festive season approaches, it would be wise for everyone to remember that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas!