Lawyer calls for couples to consider prenups for pets
A Queensland law firm is suggesting couples enter into a prenuptial agreement to decide who gets custody of a beloved dog or cat when the relationship ends.
Creevey Russell Lawyers said entering into a binding financial agreement (BFA) could avoid expensive, time-consuming and stressful disputes over pets. They said this issue can get quite complex and emotional as, unlike when a couple shares children, Family Law Court does not consider “shared custody” or “visitation” of pets.
Lawyer Danielle Glaister said of this issue: “The BFA, or prenup, can cover a range of financial matters, or it can just deal with the pets – this is up to the parties.
“A BFA can be made by parties to a de facto relationship or a marriage either before living together or getting married, at any time during the relationship, or after divorce,” she saidl.
Ms Glaister said the custody of a pet can be resolved amicably and parties can agree on who will keep it. Sometimes, parties choose to share custody or arrange visitation.
“Due to the time, money and stress that can be involved in going to court, it is best to try to reach an agreement about your pets either through direct negotiation, or through family dispute resolution services such as mediation,” Ms Glaister said.
She added there is a debate about whether the law surrounding custody of pets should be changed: “Some animal rights activists argue the treatment of animals as property is inappropriate given that pets have awareness and experience complex emotions.”
In some courts overseas, courts have adopted a “best interest” test when deciding who gets the pet, meaning “they consider what is in the pet’s best interest”.
“The ‘best interest’ test is the test used in Australia when deciding children’s matters,” Ms Glaister said. “Despite some push for them to do so, Australian courts have been opposed to changing the treatment of pets under family law.”