The shutdown of businesses during the pandemic has resulted in a pet adoption boom as more families stick it out at home. Coincidentally, inquiries for divorce following months of sheltering in place and social distancing has also gone up with an expectation that more couples will file for divorce as family law courts reopen.
Couples feeling the strain of non-stop together time who either have longtime pet companions or recently adopted a dog or cat during the pandemic, may now be faced with not only the prospect of a divorce but also questions regarding who will keep a beloved dog or cat.
In Wisconsin, pets are generally considered property in the division of marital assets and liabilities. If there is a dispute as to who receives the pet the court will look at various factors such as:
Who purchased the pet? Was the purchase before the marriage or during? Is there a purchase agreement with one or both spouse’s names on it?
Who is the primary caretaker of the pet? If one person takes the dog to veterinarian appointments, training, groomers, and is usually the person taking the dog out to play on a regular basis, they may be the one who is awarded the dog in a divorce.
Who is paying for all the TLC a pet needs? All the appointments to the vet or groomer, or to purchase food or medicine is expensive. Did the couple share these expenses during the marriage?
PupNups to the Rescue
If you and your pet are inseparable before you marry, you may want to consider avoiding any future disagreements. A pet prenup, often called a pup-nup, is a prenuptial or post nuptial agreement that addresses what will happen to the family pet(s) if you divorce.
Prenuptial (before marriage) and postnuptial (after marriage) agreements detail how a couple will divide assets if their marriage dissolves. They are important financial tool when an individual or a couple have significant or complex assets and also if a couple shares a treasured pet.
Most young couples who are married for the first time with no or few assets probably do not need a prenuptial agreement, but may wish to have a postnuptial agreement if they decide to add a family pet. Those entering a marriage with significant assets of their own or own a large estate – premarital assets which can be protected from community property division with a prenuptial agreement – probably should already have a prenuptial agreement, if not, it is advisable to explore getting a post-nuptial agreement which can include a pupnup.
If you have questions regarding a family pet and divorce, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, contact the Wisconsin family law attorneys at Probst law offices for more information at 414-210-3135.