Pet-Nup (The Pre-Nup for your Pet!)

One of the hardest problems to solve at the end of a relationship or marriage can be who gets to keep the pet cat or dog.

This would be a simple dispute to avoid if, at the start of the relationship or marriage, there was a legally enforceable agreement specifying who is to keep the pet.

Pets as Property

The Family Law Act defines animals as property.  This means that in most cases, courts will treat pets in the same way as household items. When there is more than one family pet, parties can distribute them individually via agreement or Court Order.

Who Gets the Pet After Divorce?

Unfortunately, once a court has decided who keeps the pets, the pet become the sole property of that one individual. There is no such thing as visitation rights or time-spent arrangements with pets.  These arrangements can be difficult to accept if you are very attached to your pet, and the other party gets to keep it.

When determining who will keep the pet, some important considerations might include who:

  • has proof of ownership/registration;
  • is mostly responsible for the pet’s care;
  • has custody of the children;
  • is the primary carer for the children; and
  • has appropriate living arrangements for keeping the pet.

How a Pet-Nup Can Help Solve the Problem

A little-used provision in the Family Law Act allows people to have a Binding Financial Agreement over just one asset. A court does not require you to cover every asset that each side has, or will have, although that is what most Pre-nups try to do.

So, for example, you could have a Binding Financial Agreement at the start of a relationship or marriage that specifies who will get a specified pet. A Binding Financial Agreement would be enforceable and would avoid any dispute about ownership it identifies the pet (for example, by reference to its registration number).

If neither side owns a pet at the start, you might say in the agreement that if a pet is purchased during the relationship/marriage then the person with proof of payment of purchase gets to own the pet.

Pet-Nups are a great way to protect both the party’s and the pet’s interests after separation. Contact us to have one of our experienced lawyers to arrange one for you today!