We all know family law has changed over the years in effort to accommodate and adapt to the changing dynamics of modern American families. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that pets have become the center of custody struggles among couples who are divorcing or separating.
Prenuptial agreements, usually referred to as “prenups”, are contracts entered into before marriage. Though the terms and conditions vary drastically from couple to couple, most prenups include provisions for spousal support, and the division of property in the event the marriage ends. Some also include specific terms regarding the forfeiture of assets as a result of the marriage ending due to infidelity.
The thought of your marriage ending before it even begins is a distant thought for the majority of couples, however, divorce rates continue to rise steadily. The average length of first marriages in the United States is only 8 years. Ironically enough, the majority of divorces are filed during the month of February. As divorce becomes increasingly popular, it has become commonplace for couples to protect themselves, as well as their animal companions by signing prenuptial agreements.
In light of the increasing divorce rate, more and more childless couples are opting for “pre-pup” agreements as part of their prenups. As they are so fittingly called, prepups dictate custody, visitation rights, and monetary support, as well as negotiate specific agreements in regards to which party will be responsible for vet care, exercise, etc,.
Late last year, a case involving a divorcing lesbian couple living in New York made national headlines due to a heated custody battle revolving around a two year old miniature dachshund hound named Joey. One party vehemently argued that she was the rightful owner of the pet because she had financially supported the animal, while the other claimed that she was initial owner and therefore the dog belonged to her.
This one of the first divorce cases to set aside a one day hearing for the sole purpose of evaluating what was in the dog’s best interest. However, this case has set a precedent for future divorce filings involving pet custody, and highlights the importance of animal companions in the lives of American couples and families. It is clear that pets and animal rights are important to modern American couples, and they will go to great lengths to protect them.
Pets are not property that can simply be divided 50/50. They are integral members of American families and households. Though marriage is a joyous occasion, it’s important to be prepared in the event it should end in divorce, especially if children and pets are involved.