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Pet-Nup Agreements for Animals in Divorce?

Posted by Joshua Wilson | Jan 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

The majority of households in the U.S. have a pet. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, 67% of households own a pet, up from about 56% of households in 1988. The most common pets are dogs and cats, which can live for 10 years or more. It is not surprising that people become very attached to their pets and treat them like members of the family. When a pet-owning couple goes through a divorce, they generally need to decide which person gets the animal.  

In order to avoid pet ownership disputes, some couples are making agreements regarding the pets before getting married with “pet-nups.” A pet-nup is like a prenuptial agreement that the couple signs before getting married. The agreement controls what will happen with the pet in the event of a divorce. 

What is a Pet-Nup? 

According to a survey of divorces in the U.K., about a quarter of all divorces involve conflict over the pets and who should get the pet after splitting up. Generally, each spouse wants to keep the animal although some individuals may want to use the pet to get back at the other spouse, including giving the animal to a shelter or selling the animal.  

To avoid these kinds of disputes, some couples are taking to making an agreement about any pets before getting married. Like a pre-nup, a “pet-nup,” is a premarital agreement that covers what the couple will do in the event of a divorce or separation. 

You may consider your pet to be like another family member, but the law generally treats animals as property. In child custody disputes, the court considers what would be in the best interest of the child. However, in a pet custody dispute, the court may consider the pet as either marital or non-marital property. 

Marital property is essentially all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Missouri law presumes all property received by either spouse during a marriage is marital unless a spouse can prove otherwise. This may include a pet that the couple gets together. 

Non-marital property, also known as separate property, is all property that is not marital. People generally consider the property acquired before a couple marries as non-marital property. A pet that one spouse owned before marriage may be considered separate property.

Prenuptial Agreements in Missouri

prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by individuals in consideration of marriage. The agreement provides for how certain assets, property, and financial responsibilities will be treated in the event of a divorce. The terms of the prenuptial agreement can provide for: 

  • Individual assets,
  • Marital assets, 
  • Inheritance,
  • Business property, 
  • Spousal maintenance,  
  • Individual and shared debts, 
  • Real property, and
  • Pets and animals.  

A prenuptial agreement is generally enforceable, where:

  • The contract was entered into voluntarily; 
  • Each spouse had the opportunity to consult with an attorney before signing the agreement; 
  • The agreement provides a disclosure of each party's financial assets and resources; 
  • The agreement is not unconscionable; and
  • The agreement is not illegal. 

Should You Need a Pet-Nup Before Marriage? 

If you are considering a prenuptial agreement involving pets or other assets, or have questions about how an agreement will impact your divorce, contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm in Raymore today. You can reach us by phone at (816) 331-9968 or fill out our online form.

About the Author

Joshua Wilson

Divorce is complex and highly emotional. Everything is going to change, including your most important personal relationships, your finances, your daily routine, and -- of course -- your home life. This can be a stressful time, and the parties involved often are not thinking clearly. You need some...


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