While Florida law does not allow marital contracts and cohabitation agreements to cover child custody or related time sharing agreements, you can plan for your furry and feathered children through four different options:
- As part of your prenuptial agreement, or
- As part of your postnuptial agreement, or
- As part of your cohabitation agreement, or
- As a separate pet-specific agreement that addresses only pet custody, aka the “pet-nup” (or “petnup”) possibly in combination with a pet trust.
The law allows you to draft your prenuptial, postnuptial, or cohabitation agreement to assign ownership of an animal to a specific partner and to designate related responsibilities to the partner(s). Your cohabitation or marital agreement can elaborate on the visitation rights of the partner who doesn’t live with the pet after the breakup and that partner’s financial contribution to the maintenance of the pet. The law considers pets to be assets, but we know that they are really our family members who need care into the future, whether or not a relationship survives.
Some of the finer petnuptial points may need consideration:
- Who pays for pet insurance?
- How much does each partner pay toward pet food, catnip, and the dog groomer?
- Will the animal be boarded during the custodial pet-owner’s vacation, or can the other partner have the first right to host?
- How much money should partners put aside in a joint account for deductibles, copays, and emergencies?
- What are the terms of the pet’s living will and end-of-life expenses? An emergency can happen anytime, but the reality of budgets needs consideration before any critical event.
- What if the custodial pet parent becomes physical, mentally, or financially unable to care for the animal? Does the non-custodial pet parent have the first right to ownership? If the non-custodial pet parent isn’t a choice, should your agreement name an agreeable third party?
- If you opt for shared custody, who gets to take which pet-related items? For example, who gets the doggie shower kit, or who can take the helper steps to the bed for your pet with a disability?
Your pet-nuptial can cover behavioral issues for the humans involved, such as rules for the pet that both partners must observe. Think if you need to include the following types of provisions so that both partners agree:
- To follow the prescribed medication routine, unless otherwise directed by a qualified veterinarian, and to consult with the other custodial pet parent if a party contemplates medication changes as potentially necessary.
- To agree on norms for the pet’s hygiene, such as brushing the pet’s teeth.
- To continue the prescribed or otherwise agreed-upon diet for the animal, unless nutrition changes are approved in writing by both parties, including medically necessary treat schedules to maintain the pet’s weight.
- To bring the animal to an agreed-upon veterinarian for routine visits and non-serious sick visits, and to find options for emergency vets in each party’s area.
- To meet the daily threshold of exercise required for the pet’s health and happiness.
- To agree on places for boarding or on individuals for pet-sitting duties.
- If the pet was purchased during the couple’s relationship, examine the receipt, rescue papers, and/or the breeder’s certificate: whose name is on these papers indicating ownership? Is your agreement reiterating this ownership or extending it to the other partner? Should any certificate be changed to reflect ownership accurately? Your goal should be to remove incentives to argue, such as these essential ownership documents that are in conflict.
Warning: All posts on this website and its partner website, DADvocacy.com, contain general information about legal matters for broad educational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be treated as such. This blog post does not create any attorney-client relationship between the reader and the DADvocacy™ Law Firm or between the reader and JustPrenups.com.