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Couples adding pets to prenuptial agreements

Posted at 5:55 AM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 06:55:38-05

Pets are a part of our families and just like other families, they can get caught in a tug-of-war when relationships go south.

These days some couples are turning to prenup agreements to help keep things civil.

"My boyfriend would definitely say that Murray is his dog as well. We both call him our dog," says Amy Nash.

"In a playful argument we would even say that well Murray goes with me. The dog is mine. We can laugh or joke around about it," says Amy.


Many couples are well past the joking part. Amy knows first hand, things get complicated with a family pet in the mix.

"He had come out of a relationship when he and I met and at the time we would still take care of his ex's dog. It was like partial custody of a child," says Amy.

That's why many couples are adding the family pet to their prenuptial agreements.

"It's just good advance planning if you are going to bring a dog or cat into a relationship," says John Kelleher of law firm Kelleher & Kelleher.


He's been working on prenups for more than 20-years and says his firm has seen a significant increase the last few years with couples wanting to include animals in their contracts.

Most involve dogs and cats with dogs outranking cats by 88% according to a 2014 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

"We've definitely had a lot of cases with disputes about dogs and cats. We had one where we had two Siberian Huskies and the parties were adamant about each one wanting to keep both of the animals," says John.


In Oklahoma, pets are considered property. Unless there's a prearranged agreement, the person who purchased the animal typically gains custody. So many couples are putting their demands in writing.

"I definitely have had cases where people have agreed in the litigation to have visitation rights. To have even some financial arrangement," says John.

These contracts can cover everything from the cost for daily care, to veterinary bills and even end-of-life decisions. John says in one case, a couple even agreed on terms in case his client changed her mind.

"The agreement was my client was going to keep the cat. But if sometime in the future she decided she either couldn't handle the cat or didn't want the cat, he would have first right or refusal to take the cat," says John.


Any prenup discussion can be awkward. But John says these agreements can help you avoid a lot of heartache and confusion down the road.

"There is one judge down in Family Court that was known for having the pet driven to the parking lot behind the Family Court... and basically the two parties stood equal distance from the judge and then both of them called and whoever the dog went to basically would win the day," says John.

That's the kind of chance Amy says she doesn't want to take.

"The whole concept, the whole idea of a prenuptial agreement to me is very unromantic... Like business is, it's a necessary evil sometimes. So I wouldn't love having the conversation. But sometimes the harder conversations are the ones we have to have," says Amy.

Story originally published by KTNV.

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