Pets are an important part of a family unit. Many families and couples view their pets as another member of their family. When a couple decides to divorce, custody and the care of a pet may be a contentious argument. In Missouri, a pet is viewed as the property of the couple, but it is not property that can be divided or sold to split the proceeds like a house or a car.

Some states have begun to recognize pets as more than property and are adjusting their laws accordingly. Missouri is not yet one of those states, making negotiations of who gets the pet a complicated argument. Some couples have reported that pets are often used as leverage by one spouse to inflict pain or as a negotiating tactic in divorce proceedings. An attorney reports that sometimes pet ownership is determined by who originally obtained the pet and placed their name on the paperwork.

Even though the law does not view pets as more than property, pet custody and care agreements can be negotiated. Many address pet custody terms prior to marriage in a prenuptial agreement. Some couples predetermine a schedule for custody and a veterinarian to make health decisions for the pet in the event the couple disagree.

A divorce is often overwhelming and can disrupt an individual’s daily life and routine. It is an emotionally exhausting time, especially when an individual may be ordered to share time with pets and children with someone else. A skilled family law attorney in Missouri can advise a client of their options to protect their rights to a pet through a prenuptial agreement or advise clients who did not execute a prenuptial agreement of their legal options in divorce proceedings concerning concerning their pets.