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More Couples Are Signing 'Pet Prenups' Before Marriage

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When you meet and fall in love with someone, you begin to think about a future with them. If things follow along that course, you probably move in together, get engaged, and eventually get married. You begin to plan your life together, which can include buying a home, and furniture, maybe a car. Before you have kids (if that's what you both have decided is what you want), you might even get a pet together, to test your abilities as caregivers and generally just add some joy to your life. But in all of these exciting developments, you don't really plan for what happens if it all falls apart. That's sort of pessimistic, and most people try to focus on the good, right? But it can and does happen, and it can be a painful and stressful experience. Building a life with someone is fun - deconstructing your life together is anything but.

One way to protect yourself before making such a big commitment is with a prenuptial agreement, which dictates what belongs to whom and who retains ownership should the relationship come to an end. We tend to think of prenups as something only used by the rich and famous, but more and more couples nowadays are turning to pet prenups to help keep things amicable in the event of a split. It might seem a little strange, but given how much pets are considered members of the family, it makes a lot of sense!

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Legal experts say that the number of couples including pets like cats and dogs in their prenuptial agreements is on the rise. In fact, you can even find free versions of the legal contract online. Children are a major part of most separations and divorces, with custody agreements being hammered out with lawyers or in front of a judge. For plenty of couples, their pets are their kids, and they have concerns and wishes when it comes to the custody and care of the animal. Without a pet prenup, there can be a lot of drama and fighting over who gets Fido after a couple splits. In 2014, for example, a former couple in New York made headlines when they ended up in front of a judge, arguing for custody of their dogs (they eventually settled out of court).

The problem is, without a pet prenup, pets are considered property, and will be divided as such in the event of a split. If you missed your chance to draw up a legal agreement before committing to pet ownership with your partner, there are still some ways you can keep custody in your favor if things go wrong. If your name is on the adoption or purchase paperwork, the pet is legally considered yours. Additionally, the person who cared most for the pet (paid for vet bills, food, care, etc.) will be better positioned to argue for custody.

But either way, you're likely to have at least a small litigation on your hands without a pet prenup. So plan ahead, and make sure you and your partner are on the same page as far as what's best for your pets, then put it in writing. It's your best shot at protecting your and your pet's best interests.

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