Prenup, Postnup, Petnup: What It Can Mean For Your Marriage (And Your Pets)

Dec 17, 2019

When two people decide to get married, they're probably not thinking about the possibility of divorce. But that's exactly what comes into discussion during a prenuptial agreement or, as it's perhaps more commonly known, a prenup.

A prenup is designed to pre-negotiate terms and protect the division of marital property. That includes money, of course, as well as items of value that may not be worth a lot in terms of finances; say, for example, a family heirloom — or even your pet.

Randy Kessler is founder of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC, a professor at Emory Law School, and author of Divorce: Protect Yourself. He joined On Second Thought to talk about the growing trend of the "petnup," deciding what happens to your beloved Fido or Felix before the divorce, as well as prenups overall.

"In court, [pets are] like a piece of furniture," Kessler said. "All the judge can do is give the couch to one side or the other; all the judge can do is give the dog to one side or the other. But you can avoid all that by signing a prenup, a postnup, or a petnup." 

While prenups can get complicated and even stir up disagreements between couples, Kessler says that there are benefits beyond the protections they provide. For example, he says that a couple who can negotiate something this difficult before the marriage can probably handle a lot during the marriage. The process might also reveal different sides of your partner — for better or for worse.

And, contrary to the negative connotations of a prenup, he says that by determining the details of a split in advance, it allows couples to concentrate on the relationship itself.

"It lets love thrive," Kessler said. "If you and I are having a disagreement, and we're not sure our marriage is going to last, let's decide the money. Let's put that off to the side, agree what's going to happen if we get divorced. And then I'm not worried that you're staying with me for the money, and you're not worried about your security. We can just go to therapy, we can figure out our lives, and if it doesn't work, the money's already decided. It takes that off the table and gets it out of the way, so we can focus on whether we want to be together."

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