Popularity of Puppy Prenups on the Rise

President Harry S. Truman once said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

These days, we often must add this unfortunate caveat: if you want to keep that dog in a divorce, get a prenup.

Results of an American Academy of Matrimonial Law survey show pet prenups are on the rise. Many attorneys report noticing an increase in couples addressing pet ownership in prenuptial agreements over the past five years.

This removes any doubt of who gets the dog (or cat, bird, etc.) in a divorce. That’s a good thing, because although San Francisco and other cities have adopted legislation that redefines animal owners as “guardians,” the federal government and the state of California still recognize animals as personal property, just like a car or a bicycle, according to the American Bar Association.

That means pets get divided just like any other piece of property. But we all know our level of affection toward our pets doesn’t compare to how we feel about the living room furniture or the riding lawn mower. So determining who gets the dog or cat in a divorce can become contentious.

Celebrity couple Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas announced in 2014 that their divorce would be amicable because it was a mutual decision. But things got testy when Griffith fought for custody of the couple’s three dogs.

Although you may feel a prenuptial agreement is a sign that you’re dooming your marriage before you even enter it, this isn’t the case. Going the prenup route is a good idea for a couple of reasons, says divorce lawyer John Griffith. For one, the more you map out and agree upon prior to tying the knot, the less there is to disagree over in the unfortunate event of a divorce.

“It’s also a good idea to address things like this outside of court whenever possible, because the courts are already clogged with cases,” Griffith says. “To have to take on additional cases related to pet custody would only further burden the system.”

Not every judge will go for these sorts of cases, attorneys say. Some refuse to hear pet-related disputes, which leaves the couple to duke it out behind the scenes and somehow reach an agreement. That can be tough.

We recommend that just as you may go through marital counseling prior to tying the knot, you should consider a prenuptial agreement to address all the areas that could get contentious in a divorce. Be sure to address who might get the family pets.

Contact our office today if you’re interested in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.