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Pet Nuptial Provides for Furry Friends in Divorce

PetnupsSo it has been a few weeks since I posted my blog  that (shocker) pets are not people in the eyes of Florida courts. If you’ve spent any time contemplating that revelation then here is something to contemplate… a pet nuptial agreement.   Created in the United Kingdom by a pet charity known as Blue Cross (not to be confused by the U.S. insurance behemoth by the same name, though , admittedly, some people who have had that insurance probably feel like they’ve gone to a vet for treatment rather than a doctor), Petnups ( a purrrfect name)offers a download that covers ownership, responsibilities and rights if the human relationship goes sour.  This is pretty new wave considering that until a landmark case in 2010, the UK did not even recognize people prenups as binding.

            The document combines contracts for deeds of agreement (think-buying a car with a loan),  divorce settlements and consent orders in an attempt to make the Petnup a legally binding document.  Clearly, there is a need for such a document. Researchers found that  30 percent of divorcing couples  disputed ongoing pet care.  Bones of contention included who would pay for veterinary bills, availability for grooming, vacation and holiday plans and how long the pet should be left alone (sounds just like the issues with kids). According to Blue Cross, pets are often given up to shelters during a divorce when neither party wants nor can care for the pet after the breakup.

The former chairman of the American Bar association Animal Law Committee, Rebecca Hass (a law professor at Valparaiso University who, perhaps in the lofty stacks of academia, has more time to contemplate and research this than a lowly lawyer in a tiny firm), was quoted in the January 2015 ABA Journal as saying the Petnup is a good idea, though it remains unclear as to whether a court would enforce it, especially as it concerns visitation and shared custody (or, as we might, in keeping with current child law, call it in Florida a Pet- time sharing and Pet-parenting plan).

At the end of the day, if you are really as attached to your pet as your kids, (or perhaps even more so- at least pets greet you when you come home) it comes down to what is really going to be best for the pet.  If you want to keep the cat just because your soon-to-be ex loves it more than you, is that a good reason to fight for a cat you never liked? ( hint-no).  On the other hand, if you have a well adjusted pet who can easily adapt to changes well, maybe an agreement to time share makes sense.  And while you’re at it, you might think about what is going to happen to your pet if you die.  Trust and estate lawyers frequently include pet provisions in wills and trust.   After all, the late irate hotel magnate Leona Helmsley left her Maltese, Trouble, $2 million!  Now that was a lucky dog.

 


[i] Poor Trouble left  for the Rainbow Bridge in 2011, leaving, thankfully, the remainder of his unused largess to children’s charities.

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