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Prenuptial agreements for pets gaining popularity

To say that Americans like pets is probably an understatement. Pets are popular everywhere, even in endlessly bustling places like New York City. Many spouses bring pets into a relationship or add one or more pets as a marriage progresses.

In legal terms, pets technically are property. However, they aren't like other property. For many married couples, a pet carries the same status as a family member. That's why couples can have such a hard time deciding what to do with their four-legged companions when there is a divorce.

Disputes in court over the custody of pets aren't uncommon, and they can be expensive. Some couples are taking another route by adopting the same plan for dividing Fido as they do for other marital property -- a prenuptial agreement.

According to participants in an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey, the use of prenuptial agreements to set the custodial and visitation terms of pet parents is rising. Parties decide which spouse will act as the primary custodian, which will have visiting privileges and how costs for pet co-parenting will be split. If that sounds familiar, it's because pet prenups are patterned after child custody arrangements.

Judges in busy family courts are likely to favor the arrangements couples make. It's a lot easier to approve a predetermined equitable division of companion animals than overload the docket with pet disputes. By the way, the AAML survey also revealed that dogs were far and away the most coveted creatures in legal disputes over pets, with 88 percent for canines compared to a measly five percent for cats.

The legal system simply views dogs and cats like any other marital property -- just as divisible as vehicles, homes and 401(k) plans. Family law attorneys understand that pet custody can be a very sensitive matter. So, have no fear about discussing the possibility of putting together a prenuptial agreement for a pet with a lawyer.

Source: RTV 6, "Attorneys advise pet prenups in case of divorce," Candice Aviles, June 16, 2015

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