By Amanda Castro, Esq.
Prenuptial agreements regarding domestic pets are on the rise as more and more attorneys across the country are recommending them to their clients. This is due to the high rates of divorce, and more and more people realizing that their beloved pets must go to one spouse or the other in the event of separation. The problem of who gets the pets following a divorce has been a recent topic in celebrity news, with ex-couples like Melanie Griffith and Antonio Benderas, as well as Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon contesting the rights to their multiple canines.
In many instances, who gets the pets is one of the most heated issues to resolve, much like custody of children. However, unlike child custody, the court looks at pets as property and will divide it as such. Usually this means the person who paid for the pet will get to keep it. Using a pet prenup will resolve this problem by indicating exactly where the pet will go if a divorce occurs, as is the case with all property included in a prenuptial agreement. While prenuptial agreements cannot be used with regard to children and where they will reside in the case of a divorce, these types of agreements can be used with regard to our cherished pets, and should be utilized to avoid the future heated argument over who gets to keep that pet.
This problem isn’t just one that comes up in a divorce. Many people in different relationships, such as roommates, non-married couples, and siblings, share the responsibilities and love for their pets while living together. Some attorneys are now recommending that all people who jointly buy a pet or care for a pet set out an agreement in writing regarding what will occur in the case that the two, or more, people go their separate ways.
These agreements, or pet prenups, have many times included one of the caretakers receiving “custody” of the pet one weekend per month, or alternating weeks, much like child custody. This type of agreement is highly recommended when the couples expect partial custody of a pet after a breakup or divorce, as a court is unlikely to ever grant such a custody-like situation when it comes to pets. However, the most likely scenario is where the couple agrees to one person keeping and caring for the pet in the event that the two individuals are no longer living under the same roof.
If you are in a situation where someone may seek ownership of your beloved pet in the future, consider having an attorney set out a pet prenuptial agreement or a contract between you and that person indicating where your pet will end up in the event of a separation and any visitation rights that person is entitled to receive, in order to protect your own interest in your pets.