Living together and even owning a four-legged friend before marriage is hardly uncommon in today’s society. While most couples — married or not — find great companionship in owning a pet, things can get messy during a divorce. Under Michigan family law, an animal is property regardless of the feelings a person might have toward it. Rather than potentially lose a deep, established bond with a pet, some owners are using prenuptial agreements to sort out these issues early on.
Since pets are considered property, judges usually are not that eager to help warring couples work out agreements that resemble child custody arrangements. Instead, it is more likely to see the dog, cat or other animal awarded to one person with the other having no options to see it. Unfortunately, some people even use pets as bargaining chips to get what they want from their divorce without having to compromise.
A prenuptial agreement — or postnup if the animal was adopted or purchased after marriage — can eliminate these issues. Couples can specify whether the pet will stay with one person or if they will share custody. They also usually address important animal care topics in their prenups, such as the designated veterinarian, veterinary bills, food costs and more.
For many Michigan families, animals are so much more than pets — they are members of the family. Losing a family member to property division can be emotionally devastating, so pet owners may be well advised to take early precautionary measures to protect that relationship. A carefully worded prenuptial agreement is an essential family law tool that can protect pet ownership, financial interests, children from previous relationship and so much more.