Why you should include pets in your prenuptial agreement
When breakups or divorces happen, people often don’t take their pets into consideration until it’s too late. When it comes time for the couple to divvy up their possessions, many forget that their furry and feathered friends are also considered as “property” under most state laws.
However, since many people view their pet as a member of the family or even one of their children, the custody battle over who gets to keep the family pet can quickly become one of the nastiest aspects of a divorce. In the UK, there was one case where a divorcing couple fought over their deceased dog that had been buried in their garden. The couple argued about whether or not the dog should be dug up before their home was sold and who would take it with them.
When it comes to a divorce, there is no telling how much money a person will spend or how far they will go to keep their pet. In some instances, pet owners have even taken the lives of their pets to ensure that their ex-spouses did not get custody.
What happens if you don’t mention your pet in the prenup
Without a prenup the fate of your pet is largely up to a judge. While most state laws still consider pets as property, judges are now beginning to pay attention to the pet’s best interests, which is what happened in the Vermont Supreme Court case of Hamet v. Baker.
Despite what some believe, the spouse who initially purchased the pet isn’t necessarily the one who will get to keep it. Judges are increasingly more likely to hear evidence about which party is more involved in the daily care of the pet. Here’s what a judge may consider in determining custody rights:
- Who purchased or adopted the pet?
- Are the caretaker responsibilities equally shared?
- Who pays for the food and vet bills of the pet?
- After the divorce, who will have the most space/time to devote to the pet?
- Who will have custody of the children?
Children are beginning to play a bigger role into who gets to keep the pet. Judges are more likely to keep children and pets together because of the emotional attachment that usually exists between the two. Collecting receipts of your pet’s expenses and getting eyewitnesses who can attest that you are the primary caretaker could also play a part in deciding who deserves ownership of your pet.
Without a prenuptial agreement, a divorcing couple will likely face an expensive and emotionally draining litigation process and a pet custody case alone can cost upwards of $20,000. However, a couple can easily avoid this nasty aspect of divorce by addressing their pet in a prenup.
Including your pet in a prenup
In case you aren’t familiar, a prenuptial agreement is a contract that a couple signs before marriage that details how shared property will be divided in the event of a divorce. Traditionally, prenuptial agreements are more concerned with estates and inheritance rather than the family pet.
Yet, with an increase of pet custody cases over the last several years, lawyers have begun to recommend their clients include a provision in the prenuptial agreement regarding their pets.
Some topics that a couple might want to cover are:
- Who will take care of the pet?
- Will the couple share custody?
- How should the pet be taken care of? (diet, exercise, etc)
- Will the vet bills be split?
Whether they are furry, feathered, or scaly, people absolutely love their pets. We like to consider our pets as valued members of the family and often treat them as our own children.
By answering these questions before you get married, a couple can ensure that your pet will be well taken care of after the divorce and alleviate some of the emotional stress that comes with it.