Patrick M. Noe, Jr., Attorney at Law

Patrick M. Noe, Jr. Attorney at Law

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Property division: what is a "pet-nup?"

For many people, pets are more than just furry companions. They are often considered members of the family. They receive as much love and care as any humans in the household. That is why pet care can be difficult to determine in the event of a divorce. Oftentimes, both spouses have a strong attachment to the pet and both want to care for it, which can run counter to the desire for both of them to move on with their lives after the divorce is finalized.

Experts have a suggestion for pet owners here in New York that may help. Though the law considers pets as property and as such are subject to property division in a divorce agreement, some couples are opting to create a "pet-nup." The pet-nup outlines exactly who will care for the pet in the event of divorce.

What exactly is a "pet-nup?"

Couples who own or are in the process of getting a pet may want to create a legal document that details how to handle a pet's care and custody in the event of divorce. Some couples decide to share custody of the pet, while others choose to have just one person care for the pet. Either way, it can be a very emotionally-charged situation.

Pets are legally considered property. That means that courts often award "custody" of the pet to the person in the relationship who purchased the pet, who signed adoption papers or who made the majority of pet-related purchases for things like food and veterinary care. Unfortunately, that might mean that the spouse who is actually more emotionally-bonded to the pet or who can give it the best care doesn't get primary custody of the pet.

Possible legal changes for "fur-kids"

Some legal experts want to challenge the idea that pets are property. They want custody cases for pets to look more like custody cases for children. That means that the court would examine exactly what would be in the best interest of the pet. Courts would have to weigh similar factors as they do for child custody cases.

A few states are already implementing this type of change. In one state, judges can consider what is best for the pet, and another state actually passed legislation that tells judges to take into account the well-being of the pet. Experts say that this could be just the beginning and is promising for pet owners who may have concerns regarding pet custody and divorce.

Is a pet-nup right for me?

Experts say that anyone who loves their pet and shares it with another person should think about creating a pet-nup. It may be the best way to avoid a great deal of conflict if you and your spouse ever decide to divorce. It can save both time and money for both spouses involved. Though some people worry about pet-nups, or even view prenuptial agreements as negative, it is easier to make these types of choices before a relationship starts to break down.

If you have a pet in your life that you love, consulting with an attorney about any kind of prenuptial agreement may be a good idea. If you're already thinking about divorce and don't have one of these agreements, it isn't too late for you to ensure that your pet gets the best care. It is an important part of the process no matter when it happens.

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Patrick M. Noe, Jr.
1301 North Forest Road, Suite 2
Williamsville, NY 14221

Phone: 716-803-8741
Fax: 716-565-1575
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