MIAMI, Florida. If you have a dog or cat, you likely consider your pet a part of your family. Yet, have you considered what will happen to your dog or cat if you get divorced? Pets are generally considered property during divorce. This means that the court will generally award ownership of the pet to the person who either purchased or adopted the pet. Sadly, courts generally don’t have provisions that include shared pet custody. Pets can easily become a point of contention in a divorce, resulting in a long, drawn-out court battle. According to ABC News, some divorces get complicated because couples can’t decide how to divide pet custody or can’t decide who gets to keep the pet.
So, what can you do to protect your rights should you get divorced? Consider including your pets in your prenuptial agreement. Without a pet prenuptial agreement, some divorcing individuals find themselves facing the prospect of having to make compromises based on alimony and equitable division of assets in order to keep the pet. In order to protect yourself from having your pet become a bargaining chip in your divorce, many couples draw up a pet prenup before getting married. The prenup can specify who gets the pet should you divorce, or whether you will have a “shared pet custody” agreement in place.
What should you include in your pet custody agreement? In many ways, couples will include similar provisions that they’d include in a parenting plan agreement. Pet parents will decide who will have the pet and when, where the pet will spend holidays, and how pet parental responsibility will be divided. The pet prenup can also include specifics about which veterinarian will be used and how critical medical decisions for the pet will be made. A pet prenup can also include information about how the pet’s expenses and needs will be paid for. Will these expenses be shared? Or will one party be responsible for all expenses?
According to Brides.com, couples shouldn’t just consider the pets they currently have, but also consider any future pets they may get. A proper pet prenup can take into consideration current and future pets.
Florida has yet to enact animal welfare laws that address what happens when couples get divorced. However, states like California, Alaska, and Illinois have animal welfare laws that consider the best interests of the animal rather than treating the pet like property. In New York, the courts tend to consider the animal’s best interest when making pet custody decisions.
If you are not married, you may also want to consider your rights as it pertains to your pets.