The rise of pre-nups for pets

A survey by the dog charity the Dogs Trust has found that a one fifth of divorcing couples had as much difficulty deciding which one of them would keep the dog as who should have custody of the children.

As we reported in one of our previous blog posts, January is traditionally seen as the month when most couples file for divorce and the Dogs Trust has warned that couples often overlook the impact that their separation could have on their pet.

With this in mind, the Dogs Trust’s survey has found that increasing numbers of couples are considering a pre-marital agreement, designed to prevent custody battles over their pets, with over one quarter feeling that their dog would be their priority during divorce.

Despite the rise in pre-marital agreements, increasing numbers of divorcing couples are resorting to the courts to demand access rights to their dogs and in some cases, requesting maintenance payments towards their pet’s up-keep.

According to the Dogs Trust, sadly in some cases neither side wants to keep the dog and the charity has cared for over 400 pets over the past three years have been abandoned as a result of a divorce.

Clarissa Baldwin, CEO of the Dogs Trust, said: “It’s heartbreaking to think that, on top of everything a family goes through in a divorce or separation; their beloved pet could be drawn into the battle.

“Sadly in some cases the change in circumstances makes it impossible for the dog to stay with either of his previous owners and subsequently our statistics show there has been a consistent three year increase in this problem since 2011.

“After going on a mini-break together and then sharing a home it looks like couples see the natural next step as owning a dog together.

“However, with a dog’s life lasting longer than the average marriage, it is becoming all too common for the dog to then end up in the care of rehoming centres like the Dogs Trust.

“Dogs are not like expensive jewellery or fixtures and fittings and cannot be divided as easily.

“After all ‘a Dog is for Life’ and the cost of looking after one – as a couple and independently – needs to be considered before bringing one into your family to avoid having to give it up should the unthinkable happen down the line.”

It also seems that many divorce lawyers are seeing a rise in the number of custody battles over dogs. Solicitor Vanessa Lloyd Platt commented by saying: “The emotional upheaval as to who gets the dog can be overwhelming and a fight couples are increasingly taking to the divorce court.

‘We’re seeing more arguments over dogs in court than ever before with canine contact disputes on the rise.

‘When custody is given, its crucial owners can manage the financial implications of caring for a dog, whether that’s independently or with a pet maintenance agreement to avoid having to abandon it for financial reasons in the future.’

‘Pre-pups’ are certainly making headlines with dog custody battles in high profile divorce cases in the USA showcasing an apparent need for them.

‘Whilst I would hope couples would fully think through all implications of getting a dog together before doing so, I’m sure in a couple of years these kinds of contracts will become commonplace.’

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