Why a pre-nup for pets may be a good idea

Not only has the pandemic seen a surge locally in pet ownership, but it also has seen many Australians seek out legal separation and divorce advice* in “unprecedented” numbers, prompting the question, should couples have a pre-nup for pets?

It is unfortunately inevitable that some of these animals purchased or adopted during the pandemic will find their way to, or back to, a shelter as couples split.

It’s not a pleasant topic to talk about, but the reality is that often, as things get nasty in a break-up, people become irrational and don’t put the priority of their own children, let alone their pets, before their feelings of hurt and anger.  That’s where a pre-nup for pets may help.

That’s why I believe it is so important that couples openly and maturely discuss the welfare and wellbeing of pets that they bring into their relationship, or that they buy together, so that their pet’s needs can be met, not just in the short-term, but in the future as well.

And, while sharing custody might seem like a good idea for both parties, it isn’t ideal for the pet.

Not only do pets – dogs in particular – need routine, but any change of environment can create stress and anxiety in dogs which leads to a range of behaviour problems that can range from mild to severe emotional trauma and destructive behaviour, barking, toileting and other distressing physical behaviour.

While celebrity couple, Rapper Kayne West and Kim Kardashian, avoided any battles over pets in their split, since Sushi their pet dog officially belonged to daughter North West, it is reported Kim Kardashian had a shared custody agreement with ex-Reggie Bush, which sadly ended with the dog being given away to a friend, highlighting the need for pets to be a priority consideration for couples seeking to buy one together, or even as a surprise gift, for the pet’s long term welfare.

Only recently, the late Geoffrey Edelsten’s second wife, Brynne, revealed the pair secretly battled over the custody of their dog, Juddy, during their divorce – with the late businessman wanting half custody despite, according to Brynne, that he didn’t like the dog, “…it was just something he wanted to hold over my head”.  This again highlights how a pre-nup for pets could be agreed upfront when a pet is purchased and things are going well, rather than fighting about it once things turn sour.

For those couples considering getting a pet together in the future, Lara recommends they consider consider discussing the ‘what ifs’ before making the commitment of bringing a dog or cat into the home and signing a letter of agreement or pre-nup as to what happens to the pet should things not work out.

Of course a letter of agreement or pre-nup isn’t the most of romantic of things at the start of the relationship, but animals are sentient beings that experience a range of emotions such as suffering or pleasure, so as part our commitment to them when we first bring them into our homes, we should do our utmost to ensure we do what is best for them and consider their welfare and well-being for their entire life.

Source *https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/splitsville-why-aussies-are-breaking-up-after-covid/news-story/f2922ff414262c030ec8f87bfa3ecca8

The legal side of a pre-nup for pets

Here in Australia, there is Family Law Act that allows people to have a Binding Financial Agreement that is limited to just one asset, rather than covering every asset that a pre-nup will usually do.

This means you could have a Binding Financial Agreement at the start of a relationship or marriage that simply specifies who is going to get a specified pet. You should make sure that the pet is clearly identified, a microchip number for example, so that the Binding Financial Agreement can be clearly enforceable and avoid any dispute about ownership.

If neither side owns a pet at the start, you could potentially 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, in lieu of another Binding Financial Agreement not having been signed to replace the initial one.

Best talk your lawyer though for any clarification, as I have been told by a lawyer friend of mine, that you can always challenge a pre-nup on the grounds the situation has changed!   Or even better, keep your splits civil and consider what is best for the pet!


About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love Your Dog.

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