When a relationship breaks down, a couple have to decide who keeps the house, the car and the family pet.
For some ex-lovers, their dogs are like their children and it can be difficult coming to a mutual decision.
To save the stress, partners are now considering who would get custody of the pet in a divorce settlement before they are even married.
According to new research from Direct Line Pet Insurance, the last three years has seen a 20 per cent rise in demand for ‘pet-nups’, prenuptial agreements involving pets.
So if you’re thinking of falling in love and sharing a puppy, maybe you should consider making arrangements in advance.
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Last year saw an estimated 101,500 divorces, with over a quarter involving the custody of a dog or cat.
In around half of these divorces, the pets were prioritised over property and cars, furniture, electrical items, household goods and jewellery.
On average, family lawyers are spending nearly 24 hours per divorce case discussing what will happen to the pet – which is the equivalent of three days work and upwards of £7,000.
Meaning if you don’t have a pet-nup, it could cost you a whole lot of money.
How does the court decide who keeps the dog?
In most cases, the court will always look into what is in the best interest of the pet, and they will also look at the primary caregiver.
Over two fifths of divorce lawyers listed payment of daily care as the key factor, while over a quarter said the person listed as the owner on relevant paperwork is important.
Other factors can include living situations and who will have a garden, and the court may take into account who has custody of the children.
If an animal was bought for the child, it will most likely have to stay with them.
What options do pet owners have?
Pet owners have several options to consider when deciding who gets to keep the pet.
Many will set up a financial agreement and others may commit to shared custody.
Some will take the difficult decision of giving up ownership to their ex-partner or family member, and then there are couples who decide to give up their pet.
One fifth of couples reportedly give their pet to a rescue shelter and 14 per cent sell their pet on.
Of extreme concern is the number of people who would consider having their pet put down, at 16 per cent.
How do divorces affect the pet?
While breakups are tough for all involved, the disruption can also impact animals.
Nearly half of pet owners who have experienced a breakup believe their pet’s health was negatively affected by the breakdown of the relationship, some even needing veterinary treatment as a result.
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “As a nation of animal lovers, it’s not surprising so many people would fight for custody of their pets if they were to breakup with a partner.
“Any changes to ownership or to the pet’s address should be shared with the pet’s insurer so details are kept up to date.
“When deciding what happens to your pet when your relationship ends, we’d urge owners to consider what they think is best for the animal and cause them the least disruption.”
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