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Nationwide, 85 million families own a pet, according to a recent National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Pets are an important part of the family for many pet owners, offering unconditional love and companionship. Few pet owners have likely stopped to consider what might happen to their pet if they split or divorce from their human partner. However, statistics suggest that more pet owners need to consider this possibility.

Nearly half of all marriages will end in divorce, and about 30,000 divorce cases that go to litigation involve a conflict over a pet, as reported by Direct Pet Insurance. To protect your pet’s future, you and your partner may wish to consider drafting a new type of prenuptial agreement—a pet-nup.

Pets in the Eyes of the Law

While many of us consider pets like children, in the eyes of the law in Texas pets are still property. As such, during a divorce, the court will treat your pet as property. Ownership of your pet will be decided similar to any other asset. The court will likely consider who purchased or adopted the pet and when. If the pet was acquired during the marriage by both spouses, then the judge may be forced to assign the pet a value, award it to one party and award the other party an asset of like value. Some courts will treat pets as more unique assets and consider what is best for all involved. They might take into account who was the primary caregiver. However, this might still equate to you losing custody of your pet. For many pet owners, this result could be devastating.

To avoid the potential loss of your precious pet, you can draft what is being termed a “pet-nup.” Like a traditional prenup, a pet-nup will set out what will happen to your pet in the event of a split or divorce. You can spell out whom you want to keep the pet or elect to share custody of the pet. Both of you must agree to the pet-nup. A pet-nup can be incorporated into a larger prenup or exist as a standalone agreement. With a pet-nup in place, you can rest assured that should the worst occur and your relationship ends, your relationship with your pet is protected.