Do you need a petnup? How to navigate breakups when you share a pet


How do you decide? (Picture: Getty)

When you’re in the throes of love, settling down and getting a pet with your partner can feel like the most tempting thing in the world.

Whether you start small with a hamster or rabbit, or go straight in with a puppy, getting a pet often seems like the logical next step in a relationship.

But what happens when you break up?

Vic, 47, from Spalding, had been with her ex-husband for nearly 20 years when they divorced.

They’d had pets throughout their whole relationship and, by the time it ended, were the proud parents of one cat and one dog.

Thankfully, the decision was simple: Vic would keep the cat and her ex-husband would keep the dog.

‘When it came to the end of the relationship, of course there was sadness but it was the right thing to do,’ she tells

‘I missed the dog but we both knew she was his dog – she simply loved him far more than she tolerated me.

‘Likewise, the cat, Frankie, was much more “my” cat.

‘When I hear about people who have awful pet custody battles, I feel very fortunate we were able to agree amicably.’

Not everyone is so fortunate, though. 

Vic still has Frankie with her now (Picture: Vic Paterson)

According to research from Direct Let Pet Insurance, more than a quarter of the some 101,500 divorce cases in the UK last year involved the custody or care of a dog or cat, a number that is likely to rise given that 3.2million pets were bought during the pandemic.

The research also found that custody of pets was more important than cars, property and jewellery in half of those cases, which is no surprise given that pets are often considered as part of the family. 

It’s also why separating can be emotionally damaging, not just for owners, but for pets, too.

The research found that nearly half of pet owners who have experienced a breakup (46%) believe their pet’s health was negatively affected by the breakdown of the relationship, with 5% saying their pet needed veterinary treatment as a result.

But what’s the solution?

One idea could be drawing up a ‘petnup’, which, according to Estella Newbold-Brown, partner at Stowe Family Law, are on the rise – in fact, the research shows a 20% increase in demand for petnups in the last three years.

‘Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a petnup is an agreement that will determine what happens to the pet or pets if a couple breaks up,’ she tells us. 

Vic now owns five dogs with her current husband (Picture: Vic Paterson)

‘Unlike a prenup, they can be prepared for unmarried couples, as well as married couples.’

It’s important to note that while, like prenups in England and Wales, petnups are not legally binding, they will be taken into consideration by the court during a divorce hearing. 

‘At Stowe Family Law, we’ve seen an increasing number of people …read more

Source:: Metro


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