LEGAL CORNER: The importance of a ‘petnup’ agreement... seriously!

I was reading a Family Law periodical recently when an article leapt out at me.

Initially I thought it was more evidence of my need for spectacles but for once I was wrong.

The article was titled ‘Law Society encourages use of ‘Petnups’’ – surely a typo I thought, but indeed not.

Seemingly evidence has emerged via the Law Society that one in four divorces involves a dispute over pets.

Research with pet charity Blue Cross backs this up, confirming that rather unsurprisingly, dogs and cats are the most fought over, followed apparently by horses, rabbits and guinea pigs.

When I contemplated a career in the law, I never thought it possible that I would be dealing with a ‘petnup”, but never say never in this area.

In fact perhaps the only surprise is my own reaction.

It is almost trite to say that family pets are cherished by all and so if a relationship ends, there will be a tension.

It is in everyone’s interest for

there to be certainty, both for people and pets alike.

On reflection, I have had several cases in which disputes about pets have arisen.

It seems that the use of ‘petnup’, may very well be a means of avoiding the worst excesses of a difficult breakdown in your relationship.

Alyson Jones, rehoming development manager at Blue Cross, commented in Family Law Week: “At our rehoming centres we deal with some very upsetting situations when pets are brought to us following relationship splits.

“It really is devastating for everyone involved – including the pet.

“One partner will sometimes bring a pet to us for rehoming without the other’s knowledge.

“Our pets are not just material goods; they are often at the heart of our home lives so it is a good idea to agree on your pets’ future in advance to make a difficult situation easier.

“It may make sense to agree upfront who will keep your pet so that they do not get dragged through the courts or end up in our re-homing centres.”

So there now appears an acknowledgment that pets matter too and that arrangements should be made in advance to regulate their welfare and balance this against what each person wishes to take place should the relationship end.

The agreement could also potentially contain a ‘pet arrangements’ agreement, equivalent to contact to a child.

If you wish to find out more on this, please contact Jim Richards on 01243 812428.

By Jim Richards

Family Department

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George Ide, LLP

Solicitors of Chichester and Bognor Regis

Telephone 01243 786668

Email: observer@georgeide.co.uk