Lawyers push for puppy prenups
LAWYERS are warning pet owners to protect themselves from a broken heart, by drawing up pet prenuptial agreements with their significant others.
Creevey Russell Lawyers personal law team member Dannielle Glaister said couples adopting a fur baby should work out who will assume custody if a relationship ends.
Ms Glaister said in most cases, custody of a dog or cat could be resolved amicably and the parties could agree who would keep the pet; or sometimes parties would agree to 'share custody' or arrange regular visits with the pet.
But when this failed, she said, some pet owners could be forced into expensive, time consuming and stressful disputes.
"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 a mediation," she said.
Unlike children, pets from broken homes do not have the family courts to negotiate custody or visitation rights, she said.
In other countries, when couples have fought lengthy and expensive court battles for custody of their dogs and cats, Ms Glaister said, courts had adopted a 'best interest' test.
"The 'best interest' test is the test used in Australia when deciding children's matters," she said. "Meaning that they consider what is in the pet's best interest."
Since pets are classified as property, Ms Glaister suggested couples should create a binding financial agreement to prevent any future dispute about 'who gets the pet'.
"The BFA, or prenup, can cover a range of financial matters, or it can just deal with the pets - this is completely up to the parties," she said.
Ms Glaister said there had also been debate about whether the law surrounding pets should be changed.
"Some animal rights activists argue that the treatment of animals as property is inappropriate given that pets have awareness and experience complex emotions," she said.
These pet prenups can be made by people in a de facto relationship or a marriage, either before living together or getting married, at any time during the relationship, or after separation or divorce, Ms Glaister said.