If you are like most couples, your pet is a part of your family. They go on walks with you, and maybe even on vacations. They are there to greet you as you come home, and you give them all the love and affection that you would any child. What happens, though, when your family splits up? Is it like divorcing with children, where there is a custody agreement? Not exactly.
Pets and The Law
While, to you, your pet may be no less a part of the family than an actual child, the law considers them “property,” much like your furniture and household appliances. Therefore, ownership is generally based upon who purchased the pet, who cares for the pet, and who has had the greatest financial investment in the animal since ownership began. Sound a little harsh? You bet it is! This is exactly why so many pet-owning couples have found themselves stuck when it comes to finalizing their divorce.
An Emotionally Charged Issue
The biggest problem with the concept of treating pets like property is that, unlike dishwashers and antique couches, people form bonds with their animals. Further, much like the bond with a child, it is something that both parties may share. As such, determining who will take ownership of a pet can be a highly contentious matter in divorce. For some, it is the one thing that they simply cannot settle on, and so a judge has to step in and make a determination. Again, this comes with a host of issues, namely that the considerations made are not always those that are in the best interest of the animal.
Take, for example, the spouse that is not fully attached to the animal. Maybe they spent most of their time at work while the other worked from home, which gave them more time with the pet. The former might have contributed more to the pet’s well-being on a financial level, but the latter certainly contributed greatly to the pet’s daily and emotional needs. Or, maybe one spouse brought the pet into the marriage but the other bonded while they were together. All of this can complicate the determination of pet ownership in the end.
Can a Prenuptial Agreement Help?
Part of the reason that pet ownership can become so contentious is that, sometimes, one spouse may try to “use” the pet to get something they want. Or they may attempt to use the pet to hurt their spouse. Either way, there is no real protection for the pet when this does occur. So, instead, many couples are turning to prenuptial agreements to establish what will happen to the pet, should they ever divorce. This is actually a fairly sound plan since you can outline your wishes and agreement between one another long before the emotional turmoil of divorce. As a result, you are much more likely to make sound and rational decisions at this point, which can greatly benefit you and your pet.
Our Naperville family law attorneys understand that your pet is a part of your family and we want to help you create an agreement that will benefit everyone. Further, we can help you set other guidelines in your prenuptial agreement to protect your interests, should you ever divorce. Dedicated and experienced, we will walk you through the process and help you make the difficult decisions. Get started today by calling Sullivan, Taylor & Gumina, P.C. at 630-665-7676.