Divorce can be a real whirlwind of emotions, and powering through it is painful enough without worrying what will happen with your beloved dog after all is said and done. Who gets custody of the dog in divorce?
For most owners, their dog is a cherished family member rather than just a pet. Your playful furry companion can make you happy even at the toughest of times, so it’s understandable that the thought of losing them can bring a lot of pain into your life.
What happens if your divorce presents you with a challenge: You want custody of the dog, but so does your partner. Is there a way to prevent at least one heartache in the process of separating from your spouse, and keep the pet you love and care about so much? Pet-nups are a real thing, and here is all you need to know about them.
Pet custody in the eyes of the law
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Although your love for your furry friend can move mountains, even if you consider them your immediate family, the law still doesn’t recognize your pet as anything more than personal property. It implies that there is no real “pet custody” just ownership.
Joint custody over a pet is not a legal option. The only way to share ownership of your four-legged friend with your ex is to find a way to reach an agreement that could make such a situation work. But what if you and your spouse keep fighting over this and can’t reach an understanding? If the matter of dog custody comes before a court, either you or your soon-to-be former partner can get the pet after the divorce.
This can put you into a challenging situation, as collecting evidence to prove you should be the one to get the pet can be time-consuming, tiring, and, at times, unsuccessful.
To avoid a potential mess in situations that concern their dogs, therefore, many couples sign prenuptial agreements with the wish to protect not only their assets but their beloved pet as well.
What is a prenuptial agreement?
Prenuptial agreement is a binding legal contract that future spouses sign before getting married. The purpose of this document is to protect each spouse from an excessive loss in the event of a divorce. Although some forms of prenups existed even in ancient Egypt, only in the 21st century have they formed into what they are today: proper legal documents drafted following the law.
Although many couples still consider prenuptial agreements the “romance killers,” according to the AAML’s study published in 2016, more and more millennials start signing prenups. Prenuptial agreements can offer peace of mind and create a plan to distribute the assets precisely in the way the contract describes.
How does a pet prenup work?
Opting for a pet prenup, or pet-nup, saves the couples a lot of potential trouble and heartache in the future. State laws are slowly changing and starting to recognize family pets as more than just personal assets, but until the time comes when the laws will reflect how pet owners feel, it’s good to have provisions in place.
A well-drafted prenup includes all personal assets, and you can use this document to compensate for the current shortcomings of the pet custody laws. Your pet-nup should include:
- A decision concerning dog custody, whether you and your partner decided on sole or joint option;
- Instructions about the division of assets needed to provide for the dog’s needs in their lifetime;
- The name(s) of the person(s) responsible for making medical decisions, as well as information about the person who will be paying for insurance and veterinary care;
- In case of joint custody, a pet-nup should specify details concerning visitation rights.
To create a legally valid pet prenup, you must consult a responsible, experienced divorce lawyer in your area.
Is there a pet-nup option for unmarried couples?
Couples unmarried couples have no legal option to create an official prenup. They can, however, also can draft an official document, stating what happens with a pet in case of a breakup.
Just as with official prenups, this document should also be prepared by your legal representative.
Coping with dog divorce anxiety
Dogs are creatures of habit and often struggle with change. If you try joint custody, you may find your dog misbehaves or tries to get extra attention from both partners. If one partner gives up the dog, your dog might experience grief at losing that person.
Give your dog time to get used to his new home. If possible, use the same bedding, toys, and bowls. Your dog will find comfort in familiar items.
Try to maintain your dog’s routine. Feed your dog at the same time each day, take daily walks that are similar in length, and give your dog as much attention, if not more than you did before. Be sure to update contact information with your new address if your dog has a microchip.
If your dog will have to live by new rules at your new home, like not getting on furniture or not barking because you are moving to an apartment, start training before the move.
Work to ease your dog’s stress. Sticking to a schedule will help your dog. You also can give your dog calming treats or CBD biscuits and oils to help your pup relax.
Doggie divorce drama
Taking care of your beloved dog begins from the moment they enter your home and capture your heart. Signing a prenup will guarantee your best friend’s safety and wellbeing by drafting a plan for pets in divorce settlements.
Loving your dog means putting their needs and wellbeing first. No matter how much you will miss them when deciding on custody, be honest with yourself and your partner. Hard as it might be, letting your dog live with your partner might be the best choice for your dog.
Deciding on your beloved dog’s future is never easy in case of splitting up with a spouse, but if you cherish your pet’s happiness above all else, you’ll never make a wrong decision.