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Do you need a 'pup nup'?

You've no-doubt heard of prenuptial agreements. You've probably even heard of postnuptial ones. But have you ever heard of a "pup nup?"

Increasing awareness about animal welfare and rights has made the issue of what to do with the pets after a divorce a much more complicated issue in recent years. Once upon a time, all pets were regarded as property. Your dog that slept in your bed was -- for all legal purposes -- treated just the same as a set of dishes or a couch when it comes to dividing up the marital property.

That's never made animal lovers particularly happy. Pets can become a focal point in many divorces. Sometimes both spouses genuinely love the pets. Sometimes one spouse tries to use the family pet as leverage, bargaining custody of the dog or cat against something else they want. Still others will vie for custody of a pet just to punish their spouse for the divorce.

Some states have responded to the issue by passing legislation that makes custody of the pets more akin to custody of a couple's children -- but Washington isn't one of them.

This is where a "pup nup" can help. Essentially, just like prenups and postnups, pup nups are contracts that couples can use to spell out what will happen with their pets should they divorce. Generally speaking, any agreement that's fair is usually workable. Couples can agree that the dog belongs to one spouse, the cat to the other -- or they can agree that shared custody is the way to go.

If you're thinking about the future and you want to add a little security to your situation, it might be time to talk about your situation with a family law attorney.

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