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Pets and ‘petnups’ in a New York divorce

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2022 | Property Division

When it comes to dividing assets in divorce in New York, pets are considered property, just like any other property. However, over the years, the question of pet custody has come up many times and that issue has been incorporated into one of the important areas in divorce mediation. In fact, there are mediators who now specialize in pet custody so that the couple can prevent a dispute between them from ending up in court.

There are some states, particularly California and Illinois, that have passed laws that allow the consideration of the best interests of pets during a divorce proceeding. New York has a bill to the same effect that was signed by the governor in 2021. There are many people who consider that a pet is more like a member of a family than a possession and should be treated accordingly in a divorce.

Pet custody comes up over and over again

Because pet custody is an issue that is not going away, and thus causes ongoing conflict between the divorcing spouses, more and more people in that situation anticipate the custody issue from the beginning and have a “petnup” drawn up to avoid issues later on. A petnup is similar to a prenup and having it in place may make things go more smoothly.

When it comes to pets and pet owners, there are more emotions involved than there are with inanimate objects, not matter how much sentimental value is attached to those objects. In place of a petnup, the next best thing that a couple can do to avoid conflict over a pet later on is for the person whose name appears on the pet’s documentation as the owner to cover all expenses from a separate account. In that case, there will be no disputing who the pet’s owner is. That will help to prevent the other spouse from using the pet as a pawn later on in the divorce if things go south.

Trying to reach an amicable agreement

Going through a divorce can be emotionally trying and the divorcing couple’s emotions are often on edge throughout the divorce. In a collaborative divorce, the lawyer facilitates so that the couple can come to an agreement on the issues that are between them. The couple’s best interests are the top priority and in many cases, an amicable solution that everyone can live with is agreed upon. An experienced New York family law attorney can offer solid advice and guidance that will bring harmony to the situation so that each person walks away satisfied.