A new report published by the insurance company Direct Line reveals that 28,500 divorce cases a year involve custody of a family pet. This amounts to over a quarter of all divorces in the UK, and equates to around 90 every day. The research also highlights the confusion surrounding pet ownership – most people believe that the primary carer for the pet will be named as the owner, whereas legally pets are viewed as property and it is whoever is listed as the legal owner or purchaser who would normally get custody.
In order to avoid disputes over pet ownership more and more couples are choosing to draw up `pet nups’, or pre-nuptial agreements to decide custody of a pet should the relationship break down. A survey of family lawyers by Direct Line reports a 24% increase in the number of requests from couples to draw up `pet nups’ covering the custody and care of a pet over the past three years.
Family pets are seen by many as an important element in a divorce settlement and owners consequently look to protect their pet in the same way as any other asset. In some cases emotions have run so high that pets have been prioritised over rights to pensions and other savings, or even to access to children. Remarkably, the research shows that 16% of people would prefer to have their pet put down rather than lose access in a custody dispute.
A `pet nup’ agreement would cover the living arrangements for the pet, and how it is fed, exercised and looked after. Financial considerations such as insurance should be included, as well as what happens if the animal becomes ill, or when the keeper of the pet takes holidays. Equally, owners could agree in the `pet nup’ to come to a financial settlement for their `share’ of the animal, or set up a shared ownership arrangement. Owners could even agree to dispose of the animal altogether, by taking it to a pet rescue centre or shelter, or selling it.
Prit Powar, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said: “A break up or divorce is a really stressful time for everyone involved, including the pets that often pick up on their owner’s emotions. Given how important pets are within a family it is not surprising that so many people fight for custody. However, we urge owners to consider what is ultimately best for their pet’s wellbeing when making any decisions”.
At Bretherton Law we would also urge you to consider the impact of any conflict over the pet, upon your children.
It can be stressful and complicated when relationships break down. Bretherton Law’s experienced Family and Child Law Solicitors have been helping people with changes in their circumstances for over 50 years. We are members of Resolution and Accredited in Family Law by the Law Society. For honest, sympathetic advice call Heidi Fleming on 01727 869293 contact us using the form below.
Direct Line: 28,500 ‘Pet Divorces’ a year