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Have you ever considered or worried about what happens to your furry family members in the event of a marital breakdown?

It can be very difficult to establish where pets fit when looking at divorce and the division of finances, and it can be a very emotional area to navigate. Unfortunately, the Court’s paramount consideration on divorce is not the welfare of the ‘furry’ child, and often pets are considered much in the same way as a tangible asset, falling within the category of ‘chattels’.

Generally, the assumption with a chattel is that the person who takes it away from the marriage (as per any agreement reached), would retain possession of that chattel post-Final Order. What we would not expect to see, is one party having the kitchen table Monday-Thursday, whilst the other takes it back each Friday-Sunday. In much the same way, Courts cannot be expected to micromanage arrangements relating to pets on a relationship breakdown.

One option for consideration is a Pet-Nuptial agreements, otherwise known as a “ Pet-Nup”.

What is a Pet-Nup?

A Pet-Nup is much like a Pre-Nuptial (“Pre-Nup”) agreement. This document gives married couples an opportunity to set out and agree the arrangements for their pets in the event of separation. Pet-Nups can be entered into either prior or following a marriage.

A Pet-Nup should not only consider living arrangements for a family pet, but also the additional expenses such as food, insurance, medical expenses etc. This is something which is very important to consider if, for example, the party intending to keep the pet upon divorce, is the financially weaker party.

Unresolved arrangements in relation to family pets can inflame already delicate situations, and given the emotional bonds which are often formed with pets, dealing with matters upon divorce can encourage conflict.

Are Pet-Nups legally binding?

Whilst a Pet-Nup is not considered a legally binding document, like any nuptial agreement a Pet-Nup can make clear the intensions of the parties at the time of getting the pet, and if set out well, will likely be considered by the Court.

The Court is likely to uphold the terms of the agreement so long as the following factors have been considered:

  1. Both parties should obtain independent legal advice prior to signing any agreement. This will assist in persuading a Court that both parties understood the implications at the time of signing, and that they both intended the agreement to be final.
  2. The agreement must be within the pet’s best interests, keeping the animal at the heart of any agreed terms. Whilst a pet’s welfare is not considered in the same way as a child’s, the welfare of any living being cannot be ignored.
  3. Both parties must enter into the agreement freely and any evidence of duress or undue influence may prevent the document from holding weight. This highlights another important reason for obtaining independent legal advice.
  4. An agreement which is realistic and fair is more likely to be considered by the Court. An agreement may not be upheld by the Court if it puts one party at a significant disadvantage to the other, i.e. for one party to keep the pet on separation whilst the other is expected to pay all associated future costs.

Who can enter into a Pet-Nup?

Like any nuptial agreement, Pet-Nups are only available for married couples, or those intending to marry. Nonetheless, the same can be achieved for cohabitees through terms contained within a Cohabitation Agreement.

How can we help?

If you would like to discuss the content of this article or family matters in general, please contact Zoe Cross via email or via the telephone on 01904 529155.   Alternatively, at Ramsdens our highly experienced solicitors can assist with a wide range of complex and niche areas of family law. Should you need any guidance or assistance please contact our team on 08000 147720 or send us an email at to discuss how we can help.


The above article is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any part of the information given.