Family & Relationships

Don't Lose Fluffy in a Breakup

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Let’s think back to 2020. Stay-at-home orders were in place, many people were working from home and we all had lots of time on our hands. During this time, one thing became perfectly clear: it was a great moment to adopt a new pet! In fact, nearly one in five households adopted a pet during the pandemic1, and 70% of unmarried US consumers report sharing a pet with their partner.

Many Partners Don’t Have a Plan if They Break Up

But now, years later, many things have changed – which unfortunately may include some relationships. Whether it’s a breakup, divorce or simply roommates moving on to a new place, all of these situations can lead to tricky times when deciding who gets to keep the animal. Almost 51% of unmarried couples say they don’t have a plan for their pet if they break up.

And with this comes a rising number of disputes. Will just one person retain custody, or will both partners share custody? Who will pay for food, vet visits, grooming and treats? Who gets to make the medical decisions?

So what happens if there’s a disagreement about a fluffy family member? You may start by trying to talk it out with your former partner. In most cases, you’ll be able to come to terms that both parties agree to. If negotiating doesn’t work, you could bring in a third party or an attorney to help come to a compromise on an agreement. If you and your former partner cannot come to an agreement, you may have to get the court involved. In many legal cases, a judge in small claims court will decide on a custody agreement.

The Paw-sibilities of an Animal Custody Agreement

If you’re hoping to avoid a dispute turning into a legal situation, consider creating an animal custody agreement. This agreement, similar to a child custody agreement, allows partners to outline many important details. They typically provide custody information – including a schedule if the couple decides on joint custody – financial obligations for each partner, an outline for who gets the final say in medical decisions and more. And the best part of creating an animal custody agreement is that the terms can technically be agreed upon before partners separate, so it can help avoid any potential disagreements in the future.

As you make your benefit selections this year, remember that a legal insurance plan can help in situations like this – and more. If you’re an ARAG member, don’t forget that you have access to experienced network attorneys to help you create and review legal documents like these. If you run into a bump along the way, your legal plan may also provide legal counsel and representation.  

1 New ASPCA Survey: Vast Majority of Dogs and Cats Acquired During Pandemic Still in Their Homes.


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