One of the leading reasons why people rehome or surrender their pets is due to divorce. Thousands of dogs and cats enter the shelter system every year because of couples who decided to part ways. And while many well-intentioned people believe this will be what is in the best interest of their pet, the fact is, studies prove that a stable and loving home with some kind of routine is where pets will thrive and be happiest. Giving up a pet to a shelter means that their future is uncertain.
So what happens if both people want to keep the dog, cat, hamster, guinea pig, etc.? Perhaps the most helpful way to avoid the anguish and lengthy dispute over who keeps the fur baby if divorce ever happens, is to plan ahead during your marriage with a “pet prenup”. Here we discuss further what a pet prenup can do, how the law views pets, and whether you may want to consider splitting custody.
A Pet Prenup
No married couple actually wants to plan ahead for what would happen if they were to get divorced. It is normal to be uncomfortable with the conversation. However, just in case something unexpected does happen, figuring out who would get your pets beforehand can make the splitting up process a little less heart-wrenching. Here are some points to consider when making a pet prenup plan for your family pet:
- Which spouse has to work longer hours and travels away from home most? What would probably be best for the pet is someone who is home more often than not.
- Did either of you have the pet before you began your relationship? Even if one of you grew to love the pet when you entered the relationship, it may make more sense for that pet to remain with the person who had him or her first.
- Does the pet prefer one of you over the other? This may not feel great to discuss, you both know your dynamic with your pet and can be honest about who they’d probably choose to live with.
The Law and Your Pet
In the eyes of the law, family pets are still viewed as community property. So if you were to bring this dispute to a judge, they are not likely to ask which side of the bed the pet sleeps on or who you think your pet likes the most. Instead, the judge may ask questions such as who has spent the most money when it came to pet supplies, veterinary bills, who purchased the pet, or who’s name is on adoption paperwork.
Splitting Custody with Your Ex
If you and your spouse are struggling to develop a plan that involves only one person taking custody of the pet while the other has to move on without them, then you may want to consider splitting custody with the legal help of a divorce attorney. You can make the arrangement to where one person has the pet for a certain period of time, and then drops the pet off at the other’s place.