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Can a prenuptial agreement protect a pet during a divorce?

Human beings tend to develop very close, emotional bonds with their pets to the point that many will go as far as to consider them members of their families. These unique and close relationships can all too often be exploited by a soon to be ex-husband or ex-wife as a bargaining tool in a divorce.

Florida residents may finding it interesting to learn that it is estimated that nearly 62 percent of U.S. households have at least one pet, and since 50 percent of all marriage will likely end in dissolution, it is inevitable a divorcing couple will end up feuding over who gets to keep the dog or cat. According to the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, pet custody issues in additions all other issues that come up in a divorce have become common. Furthermore, dogs seem to be the single most disputed pet in divorce litigations followed by cats.

If one's spouse knows that the other party in a divorce would be utterly devastated if they lost custody of the pet, then they could potentially threaten to pursue and gain custody in hopes that would be enough of an impetus for the other to give up something with significant financial value in return for keeping the pet. Basically it's a form of emotional extortion that some divorcing spouses have come to know all too well.

Though many pet owners would be hard pressed to put a dollar value on the relationship and love they have for their pets, in the eyes of the law a pet is legally considered nothing more than personal property much like a car, a house or a piece of furniture. Abhorrent as that may be to a pet owner's sensibility there is a silver lining to that view because it means that one can secure ownership of a beloved pet with the judicious use of a prenuptial agreement.

It is the most secure way to ensure no matter what the future brings, married or not one's beloved pet will always stay with at least one party. However, if it's past time for a prenuptial agreement, then one may want to consider including provisions for one's pet in a postnuptial agreement.

In the absence of these legal documents, a court may take into consideration various factor to determine which party is most fit to have custody of the pet. In some case, a pet custody arrangement similar to child custody may be made. Those concerned about the future of their pet in the event of a divorce may want to check with a family law attorney on what options they have.

Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?" Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014

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