When you split from your boo, it’s easy to divide up your possessions. It’s not so easy to divide up Fido.
Enter the “pet-nup.”
A pet-nup is essentially a prenuptial agreement that decides what will happen to an animal in the event that a person and their significant other decide to separate. Some attorneys argue that it’s a good idea to get one if you’re especially attached to your pet.
“As far as pet-nups go, you can put anything in the agreement,” Richard Schioppo, a New York attorney, said. “I’ve got a divorce case right now where our last remaining issue is who gets the dog.”
Nearly 30,000 divorce cases that reach a courtroom involve conflict over a pet, according to a survey by Direct Line Pet Insurance.
Schioppo explained that the way owners have come to view their pets has changed significantly over the years. While pets used to be classified as property, they are now considered children to many people.
“In the past, [a pet] wasn’t really treated as a quasi-person,” Schioppo said.
Rachel Cardona, 29, of New Jersey said she was devastated when she lost her dog Max in a breakup.
“We were dating about two years when he got me the dog,” Cardona said. “When we broke up, I moved out and he kept the dog.
“… I was extremely depressed for months,” she added.
Now, Cardona wishes they’d gotten a pet-nup before she and her ex got Max.
So what happens if there’s no pet-nup in place?
“For kids, it is what is in their best interests, but for pets, it’s best for all concerned,” Schioppo said. “Split ownership is a possibility. Typically, the pet would go where the kids go. The courts would look to, who bought the pet, who walks the pet, who takes the pet to the vet?”
Pet-nups can qualify as prenuptial agreements or cohabitation agreements, depending on whether a couple plans to get married.
And don’t think that just because you bought Skip, you get to keep him. If one person becomes the main caretaker for an animal, they could argue in court that it’s “best for all concerned” that they keep the animal, Schioppo said.
Josh Chesler, 29, of California said he knows what it feels like to lose a dog that felt like his.
“We were together for three years, living together for the last 15 months or so,” Chesler said. “My ex had purchased King with her ex, but I ended up taking care of him pretty extensively — walking, feeding, cleaning the crust from the wrinkles in his face, etc. — particularly for the time we lived together.”
When they broke up, Chesler said he was more upset about losing the black pug than his girlfriend.
“Although I recognized that he was technically her dog, we’d certainly formed a bond over our love of food, the outdoors and making too much noise at inappropriate times,” Chesler said.
Chesler, who is now engaged to a different woman, said he’d never considered a “pet-nup” as an option.
“It seems like a perfectly reasonable idea to me for some people,” Chesler said. “People care about their pets like they’re their children, and as ridiculous as that may seem, I’m sure those people would have it significantly harder than I did.
“Breaking up is never easy, but the worst part shouldn’t be unexpectedly losing a pet.”