Prenuptial Agreements Concerning Pets

Couples with marriage on their mind are increasingly insisting on a prenuptial agreement which sets out who gets custody of the pets if and when they separate. It's a bit scientific, cold and calculating but it is sensible. Prenuptial agreements help to avoid drawn out litigation at the end of a marriage often with devastating effects upon both parties and children....and pets. It would be nice if there was specific legislation regarding companion cats and dogs based on the animal's welfare and relationship with either party.

Photo of cat copyright Helmi Flick

A survey of 2,000 pet owners by Co-operative Legal Services found that one in 14 couples now has a prenuptial agreement in place regarding their pet. In the past such an agreement was really the domain of the rich and celebrities. Often it was the rich man protecting his wealth against a gold digging woman. Although that may be heavily stereotyping the situation and if so I apologize.

A third of respondents to the survey feared that they would face a tug-of-war over their pets if they split from their spouse. There is an interesting comparison between the age of the typical dog and cat and the average length of the relationship between couples. The average age of the typical dog is from 10 to 15 years and for a cat at about 15 years while the average UK relationship is now only 2 years and 9 months in length!

Tracey Maloney from Co-Operative Legal Services said:

“Pets are increasingly being seen as part of the family and when relationships break down, couples begin to think about who will gain custody of their pet."

Blue Cross, the animal charity, decided to introduce a “pet-nup" scheme in 2014 after they had received 1,000 animals in the past 5 years from owners who had separated from their partner. The scheme has proved to be successful. One reason for the success of the scheme has been attributed to their prominence in divorce settlements between celebrity couples. One such settlement concerned a high-profile tug-of-war between celebrity model Kate Moss and a husband Jamie Hince. The third-party in this tug-of-war was Archie, the family dog.

In 2010 when Cheryl Cole split from her husband footballer Ashley, she retained custody of their two chihuahuas. Apparently, the survey discovered that women were twice as likely as men to say that they would keep their cat or dog if the relationship broke down; 44% said that the animal would live with them compare to 23% of men. I wonder what this tells us about the difference between the sexes? Does it say that women have a greater connection with the family pet or does it say that women demand more of the family “assets" than men on divorce?

Unsurprisingly, not all couples are concerned about managing the situation on their potential split up because it was found that about 40% of owners were unsure of what would happen to their pet if they split up with her partner.

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