Perhaps the most challenging thing that you and your spouse will have to discuss during a divorce settlement with the assistance of a divorce attorney is who is going to keep your furry family members. In today’s society, our pets have become more like family and we treat them as such. But in the eyes of the law, pets are still considered property. If you bring the topic of who gets to keep your pets to the courtroom, the judge can decide for you.
However, it isn’t likely to be the same type of discussion as if you were disputing over child custody. In fact, the judge may only focus on who purchased the pets, provided their pet supplies, paid for veterinary bills, and other financial factors. Don’t be surprised if the judge doesn’t ask who’s side of the bed your pets sleep on.
Planning Ahead with a Pet Prenup
Let’s say you aren’t actually going through divorce just yet, but are recently married and are thinking about precautions you can take because you are a realistic person. You and your spouse can create a pet prenup to help minimize the anguish in the event that you do part ways down the road. Of course, the topic in itself can be uncomfortable, but it may be easier to decide now who gets to keep which pets if that does end up happening, then trying to achieve a resolution while in the midst of a heated separation.
If you and your spouse are seriously thinking about planning ahead with a pet prenup, here are some questions that you may want to ask yourselves:
- Which spouse has to work more? Does one spouse work from home? Do either of you ever have to travel far away for long periods of time for work? If one of you has work obligations that leave your pet at home all day, most days, then this is probably not the best scenario for them.
- If you have multiple pets, how do you imagine splitting them up fairly? Do any pets prefer one spouse over the other? While you may not openly acknowledge it, certain pets may have a stronger connection with one of you over the other.
- Did either spouse enter the relationship already with a pet? It only makes sense that the person who had the pet before you even met gets to keep them in the event of divorce.
Sharing Custody of Your Pets
Just because you are divorcing doesn’t mean that you have to choose only one person who gets your family pets. Maybe you both feel it’s best to have them in your life at least some of the time, versus not at all. And perhaps you feel that it’s worth a little awkwardness staying in communication with your ex spouse if that means you get to see your pet. You can create a schedule that you both agree to, just as if you were sharing custody of a child. And if seeing each other or speaking directly is too much, then you can have a trusted third person transfer the pets between you two.