Pre-nups for pets? Let’s get into it…
One will be aware of the increase in divorce and separation during recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, hand in paw with this is a rise for a request for “pre-nup” clauses in full and final settlement agreements between separating parties. This can be for a number of reasons including the attachment which either party has to the pet but also because of the soaring price of pedigree pets.
Fur babies aren’t the same as actual babies
Lawyers often see disputes between parents over contact with their children. There is of course a legal avenue to pursue any dispute over children in the Family Courts. There is no legally binding measure available in Northern Ireland to deal with pets in the aftermath of a breakup.
During the lifetime of a relationship, people may become very attached to a family pet. That family pet can suddenly become the focus of attention in the middle of an acrimonious breakup. The Blue Cross and The Kennel Club both advise against couples having “joint custody” of an animal. Joint custody could possibly have a negative effect on the animal’s wellbeing and cause stress and confusion. Similarly, the splitting up of animals who have lived together should also be avoided.
What would a court do?
In general, any agreement which is reached between a couple separating and if they both had legal advice and they were both satisfied that neither party was lied to, bullied or coerced then any agreement that they make will be looked upon favourably by a Judge. Therefore, whilst the terms of a “pre-nup” for a pet may not be legally enforceable they will set out what the parties’ intentions were at the time of signing the agreement.