Who gets the family home or primary physical custody of the children aren't the only significant issues relating to divorce these days. Who gets the family pet is becoming more of a legal issue when a couple's relationship ends. Signing a legal agreement from the start could save you a pet custody dispute in court if you and your partner ever get divorced.
When Your Pet Isn't Just Property
Although pets were once considered personal property, the way people feel about their pets has changed. In some states, who gets the family pet is no longer an issue of property division but has become a legal custody issue instead.
Similar to child custody suits, disputes over family pets are occurring more often when couples split. With the place that pets take in individuals' lives becoming more emotional, prenuptial-type agreements are legal documents that take pet custody into account.
Why Have a Pup-Nup Agreement?
If you worry about what will become of your beloved pet if the relationship between you and your spouse falls apart, a prenuptial agreement, sometimes referred to as a pre-pup or pup-nup, is an agreement the two of you can sign if you share a pet. The agreement indicates who gets custody of the family pet if things don't work out between you and you break up.
Like kids, pets can get caught in the middle of a divorce. Pets are part of the family -- often much like another child -- and divorce affects what happens to them. Even if you and your partner aren't married, spelling out in a written agreement who will have ownership if you share a pet and one of you leaves is a practical step to take.
What to Include in a Pup-Nup Agreement
Pup-nups are becoming more sophisticated and extending beyond the issue of ownership. Much like a child custody agreement, you and your partner are negotiating terms that are in the pet's best interest.
The laws in some states allow for pup-nup agreements to include provisions for joint custody and visitation rights. In some cases, pup-nup agreements go so far as to include support obligations for a pet.
Working out an agreement when you bring a pet into a marriage or get a pet together can save you emotional grief and legal costs later on if there's a divorce pending.
Things to consider when deciding who gets the pet:
Usually, the partner who brings the pet into a marriage wants to take it when you're facing divorce.
A pet often lives in the household of the partner who has primary custody of the kids. Keeping your kids and pet together could be in both their best interests, especially if they're really attached to each other.
If the pet was a gift to your partner, even if from you, that person may want to keep it.
For more information, you may want to contact a local family law attorney.
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