Divorces have gone to the dogs.
Custody disputes over our beloved “fur babies” have become so common in divorce negotiations that it has lead to a rise in “pet-nups”, a type of prenuptial agreement that specifically details what would happen to a couple’s pet in the event of a breakup.
In fact, around a quarter of divorces in the UK this past year involved a pet custody dispute, according to a survey published by Direct Line Pet Insurance on Monday, the Daily Mail reported, and in several cases, pet custody concerns were more of an issue than disputes over children or property.
The survey, which included 2,000 pet owners and over 100 lawyers, found that divorce lawyers in cases involving pets spend an average of 25 hours of billable time on that single issue alone.
Enter the “pet-nup.”
Despite many pet parents considering their furry friends to be children, in the eyes of the law pets are simply regarded as personal property. Therefore, having a pre-determined agreement about care and custody should the relationship turn sour is an appealing idea for couples.
A survey published in January by UK firm Maguire Family Law, found that one in 20 pet owners in a relationship has a pet-nup and a third more said they’d consider getting one. Maguire now even offers a template of a pet-nup on their website to give owners an idea of what the agreement could look like.
But the rise in pet-related custody conflicts and pet-nups isn’t just a trend in the UK.
Celebrity divorce lawyer Robert Wallack, from the Wallack Firm in New York City, told The Post that while he hasn’t yet seen a specific pre-nuptial agreement for pets, it’s not uncommon now for pets to be included in standard prenups.
“I can tell you that nowadays we are seeing issues surrounding pet be included more frequently in a regular prenuptial agreement than in the past,” Wallack said.
Wallack — who has been practicing family law for 20 years — said he’s seen a major increase in pet disputes over the past decade, particularly in the last five years. He believes it is a result of shifting societal norms.
Millennials are less likely to be homeowners, car owners or have children than their Baby Boomer parents, and are more likely to be pet owners.
“Nowadays you do have couples who get married and don’t have kids and might just have a pet and then they treat that pet as a child. Then you see these articles about you know people who do all of these crazy over-the-top things for their pet and those that will spend a thousand dollars a month on pet food, things that weren’t so common in the past,” Wallack said.
“So I think that’s why pets are becoming more central to a divorce discussion rather than the other way around. I think it is the prominence that people place on their pets nowadays that makes it more of an emotional touchpoint.”
He added that social media could also be playing a part in driving this behavior and normalizing extravagant spending on animals.
“You know I’m sure it’s always been an issue but I think maybe it’s just you know from the advent of social media that people are so much more into their pet and sort of want to put their pet out there and make them more central to their lives,” he said.
And recent data certainly supports Wallack’s hypotheses.
A 2017 study from the New York-based Conference Board predicted that by the year 2025, the amount of money people spend on education will grow only 2 percent, while pet-related industries will spike 8 percent, Bloomberg News reported.
This is because many millennials, several of whom are still recovering from the job market dip after the Great Recession of 2009, are trading dogs for kids. Fertility rates plunged as a result of the Great Recession, the study found.
In addition, a 2018 survey from TD Ameritrade found that of the 1,500 millennials they asked, 72 percent of them had pets, and 67 percent of those considered their pets to be their “fur babies,” USA Today reported.
The survey also found that millennials plan to spend more on dogs over the course of their pet’s lifetime than they do on their own healthcare. Dog owners spend $1,285 a year on their pet on average, while cat owners spend $915 a year, the study revealed.
So with pet owners sacrificing so much time and money on their fur babies, it’s no wonder they want a little extra security and protection in the case of a relationship turning sour. After all, dogs are a man’s best friend.
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