Avoid a Dog Fight

6th November 2020
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You may know a couple who separated years ago but who still share a pet. I know several people who do this and manage it really well. One friend has their dog a week at a time and when they go on holiday they have someone to take the dog for them. Occasionally there is a clash of holidays and some grizzling over who should pay the vet bills but generally it works really well.

In these cases it works very well without any formal agreements. However, sometimes the pet becomes the centre of a battle. Who bought the pet? Who cared for it more? Who can provide the better home?

A pet is a part of the family. This can be a really difficult situation. Your ex-partner remains in your life and new partners have to accept this, as well as the pet of course.

Sharing a pet and continuing to manage a relationship with an ex might seem impossible. Like with anything, sometimes it is best to deal with these kind of issues while relations are good. In the same way as a pre-nuptial agreement can provide for how assets will be divided in the event of a break-up, a cohabitation agreement can also include provision for what should happen to a beloved pet.

Cohabitation agreements are fairly common now as more people purchase property together without being married. But cohabitation agreements don’t only deal with how houses should be divided if a relationship breaks down.

Did you know that legally a pet is the property of the person who paid for it in the same way as a chair or any other item? So while you may think you bought the cat together, if in fact your partner paid for the cat using their money, legally it is their cat. Even if a pet belonged to one party before a couple met, over time a relationship might develop so that the both people feel equally attached to that cat/dog/tortoise. I won’t mention any names but I know people who have become uncharacteristically attached to pets that they were reluctant to bond with initially. Sometimes you don’t realise you are a cat person until you are one.

No one wants to spend lots of money on legal fees disputing issues like this but if you are entering into a relationship with another person and a pet, just consider your options. When you are negotiating agreements it does not have to be difficult or expensive. You can sit down with your other half and go through the things that you need to discuss and list who would have what in the event of a break up. You can add details about who contributed what if you like so that everything is clear from the start. You can agree whatever you like, within reason, and being able to talk things through in this way gives you a good idea of how you both see things and how you will work together as partners in the future. If you struggle to negotiate when things are good, imagine how hard it would be if you were separating.

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Anna Styles

Associate