It's common to consider pets as part of the family. That has not always been the case, though, at least, according to the law. When couples divorce, pets may become an issue of contention. Read on to find out how you and your spouse-to-be can nip that problem in the bud now — before you are wed.
Pets: A Separate Category
Having pets is nothing new, of course. People have formed close bonds with animals throughout history. The law, however, views pets and, indeed, all animal life, as property, and that is connected to the ownership of valuable livestock, horses, hunting dogs, and more. Unfortunately, the law when it comes to pets has been slow to catch up even though they are so much more than just property to most people. Some states do have separate laws addressing how pets are seen in the eyes of the law when it comes to family and probate law, however.
Understanding Prenuptial Agreements
You can address the pet issue before it becomes a problem using a prenuptial agreement. If either of you is a pet owner or plan to become a pet owner, don't leave this important issue out of your agreement. While not everyone plans to have a prenuptial agreement to begin their marriage, it's highly advisable. If the following apply to you, consider speaking to a lawyer about drawing up a simple and quick prenup to address issues that are important to you both:
- One or more of you is marrying for the second time
- There is a great deal of wealth at stake
- You plan to have pets in the future
- A business is owned by one or both of you
When No Agreement Is in Place
Naturally, no one about to marry wants to consider what could happen if the marriage breaks up. Those who fall into the above categories, however, should make some "just in case" preparations. Issues about pets acquired after the date of the marriage can hold up the divorce proceedings for indefinite periods of time. Time is money when it comes to legal matters, and that pet you love so much might end up costing a lot more than you expect. When the parties don't agree on who should have the pet after divorce, it can lead to other issues. For example, one spouse could hold a pet "hostage" pending an agreement on other marital property or debt divisions.
To find out more about pet ownership issues and how to address them with a prenuptial agreement, speak to a family attorney.