Powell Radomsky, PLLC

Family law: Using prenuptial agreements to determine pet custody

Many couples in Virginia think of their pets as part of their family. Often, if the couple chooses to divorce, the question of what happens to the pet is a complicated one, with both people wanting to keep the pet in their lives. Because many states treat pets as property, a custody or visitation arrangement will not be ordered by the court. Fortunately, couples with pets who are considering marriage do have family law options available to them.

For example, some couples are detailing what will happen to their pets in a prenuptial agreement. One attorney claims to have seen a significant increase in the number of couples using such a tool to prevent a tug-of-war over their pets. The subject of a vast majority of these agreements -- approximately 88% -- include dogs.

Couples can decide on a variety of different issues related to their pets in such an agreement, including visitation. They can also determine who will be financially responsible for the pet's needs. One couple even included a provision that would offer the other person the right of first refusal should the owner with custody decide that she can no longer care for the animal. 

When people in Virginia choose to marry, they do so with the intention of spending the rest of their lives together. However, as their lives change, they may find that they are no longer compatible with one another. While some people may feel conversations surrounding prenuptial agreements may be awkward, taking these planning steps can help reduce conflict in the future, smoothing the process should they choose to divorce. An experienced family law attorney can help guide them in this decision-making process.

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