Divorce Lawyers See Increase in ‘Pupnups’ or Pet Prenup Agreements

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For divorce lawyer Gabriel Cheong, the most difficult issue to resolve in a recent divorce case was not calculating child support, or coordinating visitations, it was over a mule. Yes, a mule, like the ones that live on farms. Though the divorce attorney was accustomed to working with clients who were fighting for custody over a family pet, the break up of couple who owned a family farm proved to be an entirely new experience.

However, cases such as these involving exotic pets are becoming increasingly commonplace, so much so that most family law attorneys have encountered such cases at one time or another. Nothing creates more friction between a parting couple than mutually-loved and cherished furry — or scaly– companion. According to local divorce lawyers, pet prenups are on the rise.

One factor that adds fuel to the fire over this issue is that fact, in the eyes of the law, pets aren’t considered depends like children, they’re property. So, unlike child custody cases, courts typically do not consider what is in the best interested of the pet.

The hubbub surrounding bitter pet custody disputes was highlighted in June when actress Melanie Griffith and husband actor Antonio Banderas publicly announced their divorce. Though the couple released a statement deciding to end their “almost twenty years marriage in a loving and friendly manner,” Griffith’s claws came out when she made it clear she wanted custody of the couple’s three dogs.

Nearly 27 percent of divorce lawyers who responded to a 2014 survey published by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers noticed an increase in pet-custody disputes within the last five years, with dogs being the most disputed animal companion.
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