When you talk about your family do you include Fido, Fluffy, Polly or Iggy? A lot of people in Louisiana do. For many people pets are more than property. They are companions that have personalities that make them more than just animals. Some couples never have children and pets become their family.
With the bond between owners and pet often so strong what is a couple supposed to do to resolve possible disputes over custody and visitation related to pets? Considering that under family law pets are considered property, resolution might come in the form of some sort of buyout by one of the spouses. But to understand all possible family law options it’s important to consult with an attorney.
Alternatives to consider might include a prenuptial agreement that covers the cat, dog, bird or whatever. If you were to craft one of these, what should it look like? Here are some thoughts from Michigan State University.
To begin with, it may be important to keep in mind that custody matters related to children are not something courts will accept as part of prenuptial agreements. But since pets are considered property, provisions may be made for what should happen to them in divorce in the context of division of that property.
Specific elements of a clear pet prenuptial might include:
- A declaration of who rightfully owns the animal
- A description of who has provided for the animal
- Designation of who will continue to provide for its care for as long as it lives
- A framing of full or joint custody and visitation details, including how food and veterinary bills will be covered
- Payment for the value of the pet, compensation for past care and loss of companionship if full custody is granted to one spouse
- A description of what will happen to the animal in the event the custodial spouse can’t take care of the animal any more.
This might seem like a lot of work to cover a possession. But the emotional attachments we form with our animal companions makes the issue so much more important, don’t you think?