Divorce and Pet Custody Disputes

According to an article last year from the USA Today, pets are becoming increasingly involved in divorce battles. As with any type of property in a divorce proceeding, couples may fight vigorously to retain ownership of a pet once the divorce is finalized. The one main difference with a pet, however, is there are usually significant emotional attachments that can make disputes that much more contentious and difficult. In some situations, both parties have legitimate emotional bonds with the pet. Other times, one party may battle over the custody of a pet to use as bargaining tool in later negotiations.

In a 2014 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 27% of lawyers noticed an increase in the number of pet-custody fights over the past five years. Dogs were the most commonly fought over type of pet--by an overwhelming amount. Dogs accounted for 88% of the custody dispute battles followed by cats at 5%. Pet-custody disputes, however, are not just limited to dogs and cats. Some of the attorneys who responded to the survey noted custody disputes involving horses, an iguana, python, African grey parrot, and a giant 130-pound turtle. If an animal can be kept as a pet (legally) then invariably someone will fight to retain custody of the pet.

Use of "Pet Prenups" Is on the Rise

One method to combat contentious disputes regarding ownership of a pet is to include the pet in a prenuptial agreement. According to one article, lawyers have been noticing a rise in the number of couples entering into "pet prenups." Pet prenuptial agreements allow a couple to determine who retains custody to the pet if the marriage ends. This allows a couple to circumvent contentious custody battles in divorce proceedings.

Pets are considered property, and therefore, pet custody disputes do not involve the same considerations as custody disputes involving children. For children, a court will consider the best interest of the child when awarding custody of the child. For pets, however, courts (if courts get involved at all) do not consider the best interest of the pet. A pet prenup is an efficient mechanism to prevent a pet custody dispute.

Entering into Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements can be used for purposes other than awarding custody of a pet in a divorce proceeding. Prenuptial agreements may contain provisions dealing with some or all of a spouse's assets and property. These agreements commonly include provisions regarding the status of property and payments for sustenance upon the death of one of spouse or the sustenance or maintenance upon a separation or divorce.

Contact a Cleveland Marriage Attorney for Advice

If you have any questions regarding prenuptial agreements, it is an important to reach out to an experienced family law attorney. At Laubacher & Co., we have a team of experienced Cleveland family law attorneys who can help you prepare a prenuptial agreement and answer all your questions. Contact one of our attorneys today for a free initial consultation.

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