custody of pets

Pet-Nups: Should You Get One to Determine Custody of Pets In Your Relationship?

Overview of Pet Nups

It’s become fairly common for those without children to treat their pets like they would their children, hence the recent rise in popularity of terms such as “dog mom” or “cat mom” in pop culture. If you search through social media platforms such as Instagram, you’ll find these terms hashtagged on thousands and thousands of pictures of people with their furry friends.

Couples treating their pets as their children has risen in popularity due to the younger generation, with many couples either choosing not to have kids at all or waiting until they’re well into their 30s to do so, choosing their careers and traveling over children.

With that being said, since so many couples share a pet, whether married or not, what happens to the pet if the couple were to split? That’s become a problem that typically causes breakups and divorces to drag on until the issue is settled. Pet-nups are an easy solution to this commonly experienced headache.

What is a Pet-Nup?

It’s fairly identical to the commonly known prenup or prenuptial agreement contract that soon-to-be newlyweds might sign in order to protect the money and assets that they’ve previously obtained prior to marriage.

A pet-nup is essentially a prenup that decides what will happen to an animal if the two owners of the animal were to decide to go their separate ways. Rather than going back and forth and trying to decide on who gets ownership of the animal and who the animal will live a better life with, all of this will have been decided long ago with a legal document, thus making at least this part of a divorce or break-up easier on the two parties involved.

A recent survey determined that nearly 30,000 divorce cases that make it to a courtroom involve a conflict over a pet. Another survey determined that divorce lawyers in cases involving pets spend an average of 25 hours of billable time on that single issue alone, which just goes to show how important pet ownership is to people nowadays. The same survey noted that in several cases, custody of pets was more of an issue for the two parties involved than were disputes over children, assets, or property.

The first legally binding pet-nup was reportedly launched in 2014, although there are instances of it happening previously. One in 20 pet owners in a relationship now has a pet-nup, with another third claiming that they would consider getting one.

Is Determining Custody of Pets Right For Your Relationship?

After learning about what a pet-nup is, you might be sitting there wondering if one is right for you and your significant other. Getting a pet-nup, just like getting a prenup, doesn’t mean that you don’t have faith that your relationship or marriage will work out. It just means that you’re willing to take the time to be prepared and have this planned out if things happen to go south in the future for whatever reason.

When it comes to the law, it doesn’t matter that pet owners consider their pets to be like children, as the law refers to them as personal property. This means that unlike children, there are no special provisions by the court in terms of taking care of the animal. If a couple cannot agree on terms, a judge may require that the pet be sold or for it to be bought by one party from the other. This provides all the more reason to have a predetermined pet-nup in regards to care and custody of the animal, so as to avoid difficult situations such as this.

You and your partner must take the time to determine whether or not a pet-nup is something you’ll choose to pursue. It’s always possible that the two of you come to a mutual agreement as to what will happen with your pet should you do break up or get a divorce without having to bring the law into it, but that is between you two to decide.

One potential issue that may arise from this settlement is if you make an agreement as to what will happen, and then years down the line, someone’s mind changes and they refuse to give up custody to the animal. Unfortunately for you, a handshake agreement holds no validity in a court of law.

Age Groups That Are the Most Likely to Get a Pet-Nup

Sure, everyone has pets. Whether you’re an 18-year-old high school graduate who just moved out of your parent’s house or a 70-year-old who lives at home alone and just loves the company of a dog in the home.

With that being said, millennials are much less likely than their parents to be homeowners, own a vehicle, or have children, but they are much more likely to be pet owners. Millennials are also much more likely to do over-the-top things for their pets, such as spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on food, toys, clothing, and experiences for their furry friends, which is vastly different than how pet owners behaved a generation ago.

With the increase of pet ownership by millennials, the odds are in their favor that they also are much more likely to end their relationships than those of older generations, resulting in a need to determine what to do with their pets after the end of the relationship.

A recent survey by TD Ameritrade reported that 72% of millennials had pets and that 67% of them considered them to be their “fur babies.” The same survey also found that millennials plan to spend more on their pets over the course of the pet’s lifetime than they do on their own healthcare.

By sacrificing so much time and money on their pets, it’s hard to blame pet owners for wanting to have security in knowing they won’t just lose their pet one day.