Most Massachusetts residents know that when two people decide to separate, whether they are married or cohabiting, typically, some time is spent discussing how they will fairly divide a number of things: vehicles, homes, furniture, bank accounts, investments, parenting time, etc. However, many people may not realize that pet owners must also consider what to do with their furry friends when they divorce or end a cohabitation arrangement. Owners tend to view their pets as part of the family now more than ever before, prompting many people to prepare a pet-nup at the beginning of their romantic relationship.
A pet-nup is a form of prenuptial agreement that stipulates what will happen to a pet in the event the marriage or cohabitation ends. In the past, when a couple severed their legal ties, pets were classified as property, while now many people consider pets like children. In a pet-nup agreement, separating pet owners can and should include anything they think is important regarding the pet’s future.
If a separating couple does not have a pet-nup in place, the courts will consider various factors, including who is the primary caretaker for the pet and who initially purchased the pet. An attorney experienced in this area explains that when deciding the fate of children, courts will look at what is in their best interests, but where pets are concerned, they look at what’s best for everyone involved. It is important to know that the person who bought the pet may not be guaranteed full ownership during a breakup. If the other half of the partnership is the person who primarily walks, feeds and grooms the animal, and takes it to the vet when necessary, that person may rightfully argue that he or she should keep the pet.
The process of severing ties with a partner is never pleasant, whether it happens through divorce or the end of a cohabitation arrangement. In the beginning of a relationship, no couple plans to part ways later, but unfortunately, many end up doing so at some point. Pet owners can reduce some of the inevitable stress by being prepared. Many separating Massachusetts couples find an experienced family law attorney can be a valuable legal resource.