Who gets the dog in the divorce: a tall tail
I have dealt with several cases where the biggest bone of contention (excuse the pun) was the family pet. In a particularly acrimonious matter I had suggested to my client that it would be cheaper to buy a new cat than instruct me to keep fighting for it. My suggestion did not go down well and I swiftly learnt that people consider pets to be a part of the family.
The court treats a pet the same way it would a sofa or painting; it’s simply property or a chattel as far as the court is concerned.
If the parties are not married it may well look to who bought the pet and who pays for its upkeep, and costs such as vet’s bills and food may be taken in to consideration. If the pet was gifted then it generally belongs to the recipient.
If parties are married and can’t agree on how to share chattels then the court will get involved, and will often direct a list of items in dispute to be drawn up, with parties taking turns to pick an item they want. The courts really do not like these types of disputes and the cost and stress of litigation can be vast, so you would be wise to avoid it if possible.
Ant McPartlin and his ex-wife share their dog and I’ve come across people who do this, two weeks each alternating. If you can cope with contact with your former partner, then that is a good way to do it (it doesn’t work so well for cats though!).
You cannot make an application to court for ‘custody’ of a pet and a judge won’t decide how to share the pet’s time between you. You can’t apply for ‘access’ to a pet.
There has been much in the press recently about ‘pet-nups’. I have never done or seen one but I have recently prepared a Cohabitation Agreement that specifically set out who owned the dog. It is worth thinking about what would happen upon a relationship breakdown, to avoid arguments and heartbreak at that time.
If you and your partner can’t agree on who should get the pet, you might want to try mediation to see if a mediator can help you reach an agreement.
Sarah French in our Southampton office is a qualified and very experienced mediator.
To return to my ‘tail’ at the top, I ‘won’ the cats for my client, but she never collected them. In that case I don’t think it was ever about the cats, but the principle. Principles are fine but they can be expensive!
If you’re getting divorced and you need some advice, contact Victoria in our Richmond office. T: 0208 334 0315,
Can I change my child’s name?
Parents might want to change their child’s name for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there is an absent parent or the child is being bullied, or perhaps the child wants to change his or her name.
Will Jenny from the Block have a pre-nup?
The announcement that Jennifer Lopez has become engaged to former US baseball player Alex Rodriguez has caught the public’s imagination. The couple, widely referred to as ‘J-Lo and A-Rod’ have been dating for two years.
Their combined wealth is staggering: Jennifer Lopez is estimated to be worth an incomprehensible 400 million dollars, and her fiancé, Alex, isn’t worth much less, at 350 million dollars. Because of this, the couple will no doubt be seriously considering entering into a pre-nuptial (pre-nup) agreement. Lopez has been married three times previously, and Rodriguez once. So, although everything bodes well for them for the future, they will be aware of the importance of protecting their assets in the unlikely event that things go wrong.
However, things are a little different for Lopez and Rodrigues as, in New York, pre-nups are binding, whereas in England and Wales they’re not. So is it worth considering a pre-nup if you are marrying in England in Wales? In short, yes.
The benefit of a pre-nup is, should the marriage end in divorce, you can aim to limit any claim to what your ex-partner ‘needs’ as opposed to having to share all your wealth with them. Don’t be fooled though, as ‘needs’ are generally way over and above what you or I may need to get through the month and usually include housing.
To have the best chance of being taken in to account by an English court a pre-nup needs to tick the following boxes:
Should a high earning capacity be shared upon divorce?
The Court of Appeal has released judgment in the case of Waggott v Waggott saying no it shouldnâ€™t and dismissing the wifeâ€™s appeal.