Is it Fur-ever? Disputes Over Pet Ownership Following Separations Surge Post Pandemic

Following an influx of pet ownership in the UK, legal specialists at JMP Solicitors have called for owners to strongly consider safeguarding their pets from separations by arranging a ‘Pet-nuptial’ agreement.

With over 2.1million people adopting a pet during lockdown and with 1.6million looking to add a furry friend to their family in the near future*, the firm has seen a significant increase in pet dispute cases during 2021.

With no legally binding measures in place for furry companions post break up, a pet-nup is a clause included in a wider prenuptial agreement which can help to decide the future home of a beloved pet during a separation.

Neil Remnant, head of family law at JMP Solicitors, said: “With many couples adopting pets during lockdown, it is important to implement safeguarding in case of an eventual relationship breakdown to ensure you, your family and your pet are put through the least amount of distress possible.

“Once divorce proceedings begin, the custody of the pet is in the hands of the court. They will look at a number of factors such as who can best meet the animal’s needs, who has the most suitable home and what is best for the animal.

“A pet-nup clause can have a significant impact on any decision the court is asked to make and sets out the intentions of the parties prior to marriage. It can outline custody agreements, as well as financial responsibilities such as veterinary and grooming bills. Whilst it is not officially binding, it is certainly an influential factor in deciding what happens to your pets.

“When drafting the agreement, it’s important to bear in mind what would be best for the animal, and agreed primary owners must adhere to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and agree to be responsible for caring for the animal in all eventualities.”

Despite pets being a big part of the family, animal charities such as The Blue Cross and Kennel Club both advise against joint custody of an animal as it can be unsettling and negatively affect the animal’s wellbeing. Splitting up animals who have lived together for a long time may also cause distress to animals so it’s not advisable.

It is suggested to appoint a primary caregiver of the animal upon adopting, with a pet-nup clause outlining who this will be and what the duty of care will entail.

To find out more about pet-nups and available family law services, please contact JMP Solicitors.

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