Pets and prenups: What to keep in mind before you marry

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2022 | Property Division |

You and your partner fell in love, moved in together and are planning your wedding. You even got a dog together, and that makes your family feel complete.

Unfortunately, you’re also a realist: You know that relationships can change and even when there are two good people involved, not every marriage works out. You want to talk to your future spouse about the possibility of a prenup. When you do, make sure you talk about how the dog will be handled if there’s a split.

There are no custody rights for pets

While you may justifiably feel like your pet is a member of your family, the law in most states (including this one) treats pets as nothing more than property – like a farm animal or a piece of furniture.

That means the court may award ownership of the dog to the person whose name is on the receipt from the shelter, even if that was a mere technicality and the dog was always meant to be yours. Neither the best interests of the dog nor your own are part of the consideration like they would be in a custody case.

So how do you protect your dog? Like any other piece of property, you can use your prenuptial agreement to spell out what happens to the dog if there’s a divorce. Maybe that means your future spouse agrees now that the dog really is your dog (no matter who paid the adoption fee), or maybe that means agreeing to full-time possession of the dog by one party and liberal visitation rights for the other.

Protecting your interests as you head into marriage isn’t necessarily romantic. However, it does give both you and your spouse a sense of security knowing that the property division process can be fair and cordial.