How a “Petnup” May Determine Pet Custody in a New York Divorce
Traditionally, pets have been treated as property when a couple divorces, which often makes them part of a property settlement agreement or judgment. In New York, judges don’t get into resolving pet custody and visitation battles. To deal with these potential conflicts, some couples started to create “petnup” agreements, setting out clear terms for where a pet will live if the couple should separate or divorce. As these arrangements have grown in popularity, New York is now poised to officially recognize their enforceability.
The state Legislature has approved a bill that would require divorce courts to consider a pet’s best interests in deciding who gets to keep the animal and on what terms. Supporters of the legislation say it ensures that courts will put weight on whether the pet will receive proper care. The existence of a petnup agreement therefore will be an important if not controlling factor in the determination of pet custody. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
Whether you and your partner are preparing for marriage or you are currently married, it may make sense to create a petnup for pets you already have or that you may welcome into your home going forward. A family dog, cat, bird or other pet can provide love and support and may be like a best friend to either or both spouses. Setting out each partner’s responsibilities and expectations in a petnup can help to establish a more nurturing environment for your pet and — if divorce or separation should occur — can avoid making pet custody a disputed issue.
A petnup is typically a clause in a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement, rather than its own document. It can apply to existing pets and to future pets that the couple may adopt. The petnup may allow for joint custody, sole custody and/or visitation if the couple breaks up. If the couple has children or plans to have children, the petnup may state that custody of the family pet should follow a similar schedule to the child custody order.
The divorce lawyers at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. in Melville, New York advise engaged, married and divorcing Long Island pet owners on pet custody issues. To set up a free initial consultation with a member of our team, call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online.