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Why every marriage should have a pet-nup!

Why every marriage should have a pet-nup! ‘Cautious newlyweds worried about the fate of their furry companions should their plans to live happily ever after go awry.’ HENRY DEEDES explains all

  • Around 30,000 divorces a year in the UK are now said to involve animals
  • Henry Deedes says pre-nuptial agreements with pet provisions are increasing 
  • UK-based writer reveals that couples are now encouraged to consider pets

Picture the scene: a glamorous young couple are consulting their lawyer, drafting a premarital agreement over who gets what should — Heaven forbid! — they ever go their separate ways. 

After all, for financially wellendowed folk, there is so much to weigh up: the penthouse, the ski chalet, the his ’n’hers Ferraris. 

After much to-ing and fro-ing, the i’s are finally dotted and the t’s crossed. The lawyer then removes his spectacles, casts a leathery eye at the couple’s pooch in the bride-to-be’s Birkin bag, and asks solemnly: ‘Any thoughts about putting something down in writing over little Britney?’ 

Sounds daft to you? Well, think again. Pre-nuptial agreements with pet provisions are increasingly de rigueur among cautious newlyweds worried about the fate of their furry companions should their plans to live happily ever after go awry. 

Henry Deedes (pictured with his dog Lily) says pre-nuptial agreements with pet provisions are increasing. UK-based writer reveals that couples are now encouraged to consider pets

And the phenomenon isn’t confined to chihuahua-clutching heiresses from Beverly Hills. It’s happening in the UK, too. 

Couples are being encouraged to thrash out some form of premarital agreement over custody of their pets, inevitably dubbed a ‘pet-nup’, to avoid costly custody battles if they later split. 

Around 30,000 divorces a year in the UK are now said to involve animals. And with 3.2 million households acquiring a pet during lockdown, that figure looks set to rocket in the coming years. 

To those who have never owned a four-legged friend, this must all sound ridiculous, a mad ruse cooked up by money-grabbing lawyers. But as a former dog owner and divorcee myself, I can entirely sympathise. 

When my ex-wife and I split, we had no children to squabble over. Nor much by way of assets, other than our home, which was easily divided up. We managed to tie everything up using an online lawyer for less than the cost of putting the car in for servicing. 

The only question worrying our family and friends was: what about the dog? 

Pre-nuptial agreements with pet provisions are increasingly de rigueur among cautious newlyweds worried about the fate of their furry companions should their plans to live happily ever after go awry

Almost a decade earlier we had acquired a West Highland Terrier whom we named Lily. Little could we have imagined that she would be the only minor sticking point in our eventual break-up. 

Probably in common with a lot of husbands, I’d been against the idea of a pet at first. Our cramped flat had no outdoor space. Money was tight (isn’t it always?). 

Naturally, though, as the years passed, the little ball of white fluff grew on me like a barnacle. And by the time my divorce happened, the thought of saying goodbye to Lily for ever was unbearable. 

With my ex working as a selfemployed fashion stylist, based largely at home, and me stuck in a newspaper office all day, the only workable solution was for me to take the dog at weekends. 

For owners (or ‘pet parents’), dogs are as much part of the family as children, so it’s not so surprising that they are being mentioned in divorce papers

Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Hellish on the old private life for a man re – entering bachelorhood after 13 years off the market. But that was the price — and it was one worth paying. 

All this happened ten years ago. In the time since, it has been reassuring to see I am not the only one who felt like this. 

During their 2018 break-up, Ant McPartlin and his ex Lisa Armstrong are said to have rowed over custody of their chocolate labrador, Hurley. 

And warring duo Johnny Depp and Amber Heard apparently had one of their many ding-dongs over who got to keep their Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo. 

For owners (or ‘pet parents’), dogs are as much part of the family as children, so it’s not so surprising that they are being mentioned in divorce papers. 

Though my advice to any couple warring over their pets would be to come to some arrangement, as I did. Otherwise, as usual, the only winners will be the lawyers.

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