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Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth separate – but who will keep the family pets?

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth separate – but who will keep the family pets?

“They still remain dedicated parents to all of their animals they share while lovingly taking this time apart. Please respect their process and privacy.”

This was the quote made by Miley Cyrus’ spokesperson following the breaking meows that Miley and husband Liam Hemsworth have decided to separate.  The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 provides for Parental (not Pawental) Responsibilities and Parental Rights (PRRs) between parents and children, but nowhere does it confer PRRs on individuals in respect of their pets.  Similarly, the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985 regulates financial provision on divorce, but it doesn’t focus on the fate of the family pet following separation.  Whilst to their owners pets are important members of the family unit, in the eyes of the law, they are simply ‘assets’.  So how do you decide who keeps the pet following a separation?

A number of celebrity couples have become embroiled in disputes over their furry friends – Britney and K.Fed over London, Cheryl and Ashley Cole over Buster and Coco, and Liam Gallagher and Nicole Appleton over Brigitte Bardot and Ruby Tuesday.

One can imagine that the value of Liam and Miley’s ‘matrimonial pot’ will be substantial, but is it possible that the more important issue to them will be who gets what in terms of their ‘personal zoo’ which includes 9 dogs, 3 cats and a pig called ‘Pig Pig’?

Pet Pre-Nup?

You may scoff, but a ‘Pet Pre-Nup’ is a thing. I appreciate it may not be No. 1 on your list of paw-rorities in the lead up to the big day, but a properly drafted Pet Pre-Nup will be binding on both parties and could save you a small fortune in legal fees in the event of separation.

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon got the memo about entering into a Pet Pre-Nup but made a faux-paw in that they didn’t include the pets in it!  So Jackie Lambchops, JJ, Speak E Beans, The Good Reverend Pow Jackson, Mutley P Gore Jackson the Third, Jill E Beans, Pipitty Jackson and Cha (yes, I’m serious) were caught in the middle of a convoluted canine dispute.

If Miley and Liam are able to agree things (and if they were based in Scotland) a simple solution would be for them to enter into a Minute of Agreement – a contract detailing how all the assets and debts will be divided between them – and specify within it, who is to have the care of the pet(s) moving forward. It is usually the case that the party retaining the pet(s) will assume sole responsibility for the finances associated with the pet, be it food, grooming, vet bills and insurance.  But, some parties will ask for a financial contribution from the other party.  In that respect, it is somewhat similar to child maintenance payments.

Believe it or not, if agreement cannot be reached, cases can end up in court. The Sheriff then has to determine which party keeps the pet.  Under the law of property, it would normally be the person who funded the purchase of the animal that is entitled to retain it following the separation.  However, difficulty arises where both parties contributed towards the purchase price.  The Sheriff would then look at who is registered as the legal owner and/or who is registered as the owner at the veterinary surgery and who, in the majority, tends to the pet’s daily needs.

Reaching agreement on the care arrangements of your animal companions is best, as going to court will likely increase costs, acrimony and draw out the process.

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