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What is a Pet-Nup and why might you consider one?


Burnett Barker Solicitors Family CILEX Lawyer, Melanie Stafford, discusses the benefits of having a Pet-Nup when it comes to family pets. 

In recent years, the number of divorce cases involving family pets has risen to the point where they’re not an uncommon feature in proceedings.

It’s not at all surprising that a 2019 survey from Direct Line Pet Insurance found that more than 28,500 of the 111,000 UK divorces in the previous year cited a dispute over the family pet.

As animal lovers ourselves, we understand just how valued family pets are. The thought of not seeing a pet again can be heart-wrenching and, for many separating couples, agreeing who the family pet will live with can lead to a dispute.

Why is a Pet-Nup or cohabitation agreement useful?

Many pet disputes can be avoided if, before you get married, you have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement detailing what happens to your finances, children, assets and pets (a Pet-Nup) if you were to divorce. If you are not planning on marrying but still living together, you may consider a Cohabitation Agreement instead.

What instructions are usually included in a Pet-Nup?

Typically, Pre-Nuptial Agreements (Pet-Nup) or Cohabitation Agreements involving pets can include who:

  • Your pet will live with in the event of a separation or divorce and how often the other person will get to see the pet.
  • Will meet your pet’s veterinary bills
  • Will pay for pet insurance and other costs
  • Makes the decisions on the medical care of the pet

Is a Pet-Nup legally binding?

As cold as it sounds, in law, pets are chattels. Therefore, without a Pre-Nuptial Agreement or Cohabitation Agreement, a Judge may approach a pet in the same way as other material possessions such as a sofa or television. They may not necessarily consider the best interests of your pet, as they would in children proceedings.

Although a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is not legally binding, the Court is likely to use it to assist in their decision on what happens to your pet. That’s provided that the agreement is properly drafted and there have been no undue pressures placed on either party.

There is, of course, another good reason to have a Pet-Nup. Having a Pet-Nup in place can assist during a separation by making discussions more amicable and, importantly, giving couples one less thing to dispute.

Next steps

If you want to be more in control of what happens to your furry friends if you were to separate from your partner, we encourage you to make an appointment.

Our family law solicitors will help you decide whether a Pre-Nuptial Agreement or Cohabitation Agreement is right for you and what terms should be included.