Clemson, SC- The American Veterinarian Association estimates that there 70 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in the U.S. Over sixty percent of American households have at least one pet. To the individuals and couples who care for these pets, their dog or cat is a cherished family member. That be endearing to some, but when it comes to divorce, a beloved pet can turn divorce proceedings into a mess.

To some the notion that a divorcing couple would fight over custody of a pet seems absurd, but four-legged friends mean a lot to their caregivers and often figure in divorce proceedings. In a past survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 27 percent of divorce attorneys have seen a rise in the number of pet custody cases over the past few years.

Complicating the issue is the fact that South Carolina courts treat pets like property, an object to be divided between a couple. Since they are property, the couple’s emotional connection with a pet doesn’t take precedent in divorce proceedings and if a couple cannot come to terms, they may find themselves in the middle of bitter custody dispute. While some courts are taking up the issue of pet custody, there is no guarantee a judge will take the time and treat a pet less like a thing you love and more like a piece of furniture to be assigned to one person or the other.

So, what is a couple to do?

Instead of waiting until their marriage has hit the death spiral, the divorce attorneys at USAttorneys recommend a couple have a pet custody factored into their prenuptial agreement. Get a pet prenuptial! It may seem silly to some, but it could save trouble and heartache down the road.

With a pet prenuptial, a couple can make the tough decisions while they are able to communicate and compromise. A pet requires time, attention, costly medical care and emotional support, much like a child. So, when a couple of drafting a prenuptial agreement they need to take several things into consideration and draft their pet prenuptial accordingly.

If a pet is older it may be better to not uproot them and allow them to remain in the house they’ve always known. So, the spouse who gets the house should get the pooch. Pets, dogs especially, need a lot of attention and the spouse who gets to keep the pet should have time to spend with them as well as the money need to provide them with the care they deserve. Average cost for caring for a dog is close to $1,000 a year, that’s just for basics. Legal counsel can help a couple come up with visitation schedule and other custody issues.

Those are just two things a couple needs to consider when it comes to pet custody. USAttorneys suggests a couple have a divorce attorney in Clemson to help them with their prenuptial or pet custody issues. We can help you get in touch with the best prenuptial lawyers near your South Carolina location.