Pets have increasingly become a central issue in divorce cases over the past several years. Accordingly, custody disputes have spiked, as discussed in this recent blog post. With a majority of millennial pet owners viewing their pets as they would children -- referring to them as their “fur-babies”-- custody battles can be extremely emotional and lengthy. In an effort to avoid such a situation, many couples are now choosing to enter into “pet-nups.” A topic that has recently been given attention by the media due to a recent survey published in the U.K., these prenuptial agreements can specifically address the issue of who gets to keep the pet if the relationship doesn’t work out.
Although pets are still legally considered “property,” the law is evolving to address the societal shift in the way we view pets—pets are part of the family. Whereas courts consider “the best interests of the child” in child custody cases, the “best for all concerned” standard is applied in pet custody cases. This means that a court will consider not only who purchased or adopted the pet, but who the primary caretaker was and who spent regular time with the pet, among other factors. A “pet-nup,” or well drafted provisions included in a traditional prenuptial agreement, may resolve custody issues before they should ever arise.
Couples who choose to cohabitate rather than enter into a legal marriage may also consider protecting their individual interests, and their pets, by entering into a cohabitation agreement that includes a provision which specifically addresses the issue of pet custody should the couple decide to terminate the relationship.
If you are a pet parent, it is important that you protect your legal rights and your pet’s interests. It is best to consult with an attorney to discuss the specific facts and circumstances of your situation.
The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins handles pet law and matrimonial matters and is available to represent clients in the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester. Contact The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins for a consultation by calling (646) 397-6844. Consultations are by appointment only. Office locations in Manhattan and Melville, Long Island for the convenience of clients.
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