A recent Huffington Post article on the issue of pets and divorce is interesting in the level of detail it goes into, quoting experts as suggesting that before clauses are drafted, lawyers should:
“provide that a pet psychologist interview the pet and evaluate the nature and quality of their interactions with each pet parent…also allow each pet parent to provide up to five witnesses who can vouch for their pet-parenting fitness and ability, or the other party’s lack thereof . As a LAST resort, each pet parent to submit to a polygraph and answer questions about whether they have ever been unkind or insensitive to this pet or any other pet.”
This is taking the issue of pet custody very seriously indeed!
In America, from where the Huffpo publishes, pets are considered property by the courts, just as in Australia. So legal decisions boil down to who bought and who owns the pet: the proof of purchase or adoption. But the Huffpo story argues that perhaps pets would be better off if they were regarded more like children, and that arrangements for them should be put into pre-nups.
Pre-nups or binding financial agreements traditionally determine ownership of property and assets but these days are increasingly being expanded to include issues such as pet custody, in what is known as a ‘love contract’ element of the pre-nup. Love contracts deal with any relationship issues beyond property, including issues like the ‘best interests’ of the pet, and who has custody of the companion animal when its parents break up.
These days pre-nups can pretty much contain anything you want them to and we’ve looked at this topic before on our blog (see https://www.familylawincanberra.com.au/family-law-in-canberra-who-gets-the-pets/), but the HuffPo story offers some detailed starting points for consideration of the creation of a pet clause in your pre-nup:
“Examine the nature and quality of each pet parent’s relationship to existing pets. Who provides more exercise, stimulation and affection? Who arranges needed medical care and grooming? Who provides for socialization and facilitates pet friendships? Who takes the lead in ensuring that a pet’s optimal nutritional needs are met? Who will likely be in a better future position to provide adequate space and financial resources for an optimal pet quality of life?
The article suggests considering whether a shared custody arrangement would work, arguing that depending on geographic proximity, this could be alternating weeks or months. And when children are involved, pet custody could mirror child custody so that the pets and children could stay together as much as possible.
Do you need assistance with a pre-nup? Please contact Alliance Family Law today on (02) 6223 2400.