This pet custody agreement is between (""), an individual, and (""), an individual.

The parties were in a nonmarital relationship, having lived together since .

During the course of their relationship, the parties acquired certain pets, namely ,  and  ,  and  ,  and  ,  and  (the "Pet(s)").

The parties are in the process of dissolving their relationship and wish to divide custody of the Pet(s).

The parties therefore agree as follows: 

1. CUSTODY AND VISITATION.

Considering the best interests of the Pet(s), the parties establish the primary physical and residential care of the Pet(s) with , with visitation access and rights in   as follows: .The parties will retain joint ownership or guardianship of the Pet(s). The Pet(s)' time will be divided between the parties as follows: .The parties will divide the primary physical and residential care of the Pet(s), with   going to with   and  going to with  going to with  going to with  going to with   and  going to with going to with going to with   and  going to with going to with   and  going to with . The party who does not have primary physical and residential care of a Pet will have visitation access and rights as follows: .

2. EXPENSES.

Having considered their respective financial circumstances, their respective present and future earning capacities, and their respective custody obligations, the parties shall allocate expenses for the Pet(s) as follows:

  • (a) Veterinarian. The parties are equallyEach party during his or her period of custody  is responsible for veterinary expenses incurred on behalf of the Pet(s), including expenses for medication.
  • (b) Grooming. The parties are equallyEach party during his or her period of custody  is responsible for grooming expenses incurred on behalf of the Pet(s).
  • (c) Pet Food. The parties are equallyEach party during his or her period of custody  is responsible for pet food expenses (including treats) incurred on behalf of the Pet(s).
  • (d) Pet Toys. The parties are equallyEach party during his or her period of custody  is responsible for pet toy expenses incurred on behalf of the Pet(s).
  • (e) Miscellaneous. The parties are equallyEach party during his or her period of custody  is responsible for miscellaneous expenses incurred on behalf of the Pet(s).

3. TRANSPORTATION ARRANGEMENTS.

The Pet(s) shall be exchanged between the parties as follows: . Long-distance transportation costs, if applicable, shall be paid by the parties equally. For purposes of transportation, "long distance" is defined as more than 100 miles. 

4. FUTURE INCOME.

After the Effective Date, all income earned by the Pet(s) shall be the property of both parties, to be divided equally.

5. LIMITATIONS ON TRANSFER.

Under no circumstances may a party sell, lease, or give the Pet(s) to a pet shop, research laboratory, or similar facility (including pounds or rescues). If a party can no longer provide a home for the Pet(s), he or she shall notify the other party before making a transfer and the other party shall reclaim the Pet(s) at the party's expense. If this is not possible, the other party will help find a new home for the Pet(s). If the Pet(s) are relocated under this section, the parties shall help with any legal actions necessary to transfer ownership and registration of the Pet(s).

6. MAJOR DECISIONS.

Both parties have the right to make major decisions affecting the Pet(s). Each party may make decisions regarding the day-to-day care of the Pet(s) while the Pet(s) are residing with that party, including any emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the Pet(s)without consultation with the other party. The party with whom the Pet(s) are then residing will be responsible for taking the Pet(s) to any regularly scheduled veterinary appointments and for handling any veterinary emergencies.

7. ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS.

  • (a) Relevant Information. Each party shall promptly notify the other party of any information received about the Pet(s), either from a veterinarian or otherwise.
  • (b) Access to Records. Both parties shall have access to the Pet(s)' records and information, including information about health, sitters, walkers, and veterinarians.
  • (c) Schedule Consultation. The parties shall consult with each other before scheduling any activity that would impact time the other party spends with the Pet(s).
  • (d) Return of Property. Each party shall return with the Pet(s) the effects that were provided with the Pet(s) at the beginning of the period of possession.
  • (e) Contact Information. Each party shall promptly notify the other party of any change of address, phone number, or cell phone number so that the other party may exercise their visitation time and contact the other party as needed.

8. REPRESENTATIONS.

The parties each represent that he or she:

  • (a) is a fit and proper person to have the care, custody, and control of the Pet(s);
  • (b) is not under any duress or undue influence of the other party, and is voluntarily entering into this agreement;
  • (c) had the opportunity to consult with an attorney before signing this agreement; and
  • (d) has not entered into any separate contract, understanding, or agreement, whether express, implied in fact, or implied in law, relating to his or her respective property and contractual rights and obligations, and that all such rights and obligations are set forth in this agreement.

9. GOVERNING LAW.

  • (a) Choice of Law. The laws of the state of govern this agreement (without giving effect to its conflicts of law principles).
  • (b) Choice of Forum. Both parties consent to the personal jurisdiction of the state and federal courts in  County, .

10. AMENDMENTS.

No amendment to this agreement will be effective unless it is in writing and signed by a party or its authorized representative.

11. COUNTERPARTS; ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES.

  • (a) Counterparts. The parties may execute this agreement in any number of counterparts, each of which is an original but all of which constitute one and the same instrument.
  • (b) Electronic Signatures. This agreement, agreements ancillary to this agreement, and related documents entered into in connection with this agreement are signed when a party's signature is delivered by facsimile, email, or other electronic medium. These signatures must be treated in all respects as having the same force and effect as original signatures.

12. SEVERABILITY.

If any provision contained in this agreement is, for any reason, held to be invalid, illegal, or unenforceable in any respect, that invalidity, illegality, or unenforceability will not affect any other provisions of this agreement, but this agreement will be construed as if the invalid, illegal, or unenforceable provisions had never been contained in it, unless the deletion of those provisions would result in such a material change so as to cause completion of the transactions contemplated under this agreement to be unreasonable.

13. NOTICES.

  • (a) Writing; Permitted Delivery Methods. Each party giving or making any notice, request, demand, or other communication required or permitted by this agreement shall give that notice in writing and use one of the following types of delivery, each of which is a writing for purposes of this agreement: personal delivery, mail (registered or certified mail, postage prepaid, return-receipt requested), nationally recognized overnight courier (fees prepaid), facsimile, or email.
  • (b) Addresses. A party shall address notices under this section to a party at the following addresses:
  • If to
,  
  • If to
,  
  • (c) Effectiveness. A notice is effective only if the party giving notice complies with subsections (a) and (b) and if the recipient receives the notice.

14. WAIVER.

No waiver of a breach, failure of any condition, or any right or remedy contained in or granted by the provisions of this agreement will be effective unless it is in writing and signed by the party waiving the breach, failure, right, or remedy. No waiver of any breach, failure, right, or remedy will be deemed a waiver of any other breach, failure, right, or remedy, whether or not similar, and no waiver will constitute a continuing waiver, unless the writing so specifies.

15. ENTIRE AGREEMENT.

This agreement constitutes the final agreement of the parties. It is the complete and exclusive expression of the parties' agreement with respect to the subject matter of this agreement. All prior and contemporaneous communications, negotiations, and agreements between the parties relating to the subject matter of this agreement are expressly merged into and superseded by this agreement. The provisions of this agreement may not be explained, supplemented, or qualified by evidence of trade usage or a prior course of dealings. Neither party was induced to enter this agreement by, and neither party is relying on, any statement, representation, warranty, or agreement of the other party except those set forth expressly in this agreement. Except as set forth expressly in this agreement, there are no conditions precedent to this agreement's effectiveness.

16. HEADINGS.

The descriptive headings of the sections and subsections of this agreement are for convenience only, and do not affect this agreement's construction or interpretation.

17. EFFECTIVENESS.

This agreement will become effective when all parties have signed it. The date this agreement is signed by the last party to sign it (as indicated by the date associated with that party's signature) will be deemed the date of this agreement.

18. NECESSARY ACTS; FURTHER ASSURANCES.

Each party shall use all reasonable efforts to take, or cause to be taken, all actions necessary or desirable to consummate and make effective the transactions this agreement contemplates or to evidence or carry out the intent and purposes of this agreement.

[SIGNATURE PAGE FOLLOWS]

Each party is signing this agreement on the date stated opposite that party's signature.

Date: _______________________________________By: _________________________________________________
Name: 
Date: _______________________________________By: _________________________________________________
Name: 
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Pet custody agreements: How-to guide

Break-ups are difficult for everyone involved. Sifting through property purchased during the relationship can be tricky and agonizing for unmarried and divorcing couples. After deciding the ownership of inanimate objects, the parties can move on. 

More challenging issues arise if the former partners purchase or find a pet during the relationship. After bonding with an animal and treating them as family members or even as their children, it can be jarring for a pet owner to consider that their pet may disappear entirely.

For pet owners who are going to live separately, the right solution to pet ownership may be to create a pet custody agreement, which describes each person's rights and responsibilities for the pet's care. It can resolve disputes about ownership, custody, and financial costs, making it easier for individuals and their pets in the long run. 

What are the key aspects to consider in a pet custody agreement?

Pet custody is a relatively new area of law. Courts have begun recognizing that pets are a different property and are considering pet custody questions similar to child custody. The following are the critical points to consider while drafting a pet custody agreement.

Review the document and check all the details

Review the completed agreement to ensure that all relevant points have been included. It is essential to explicitly state all expectations and terms in the document to avoid misunderstandings.

Get the agreement signed and save records

Once the agreement is drafted, the parties must sign two copies, one for each partner. At the end of the pet custody agreement term, both parties can revisit its provisions and consider its renewal requirements.

Engage a witness or notary if required

Depending on the nature of its terms, decide to have your agreement witnessed or notarized. This can limit later challenges to the validity of a party's signature. 

Contact attorney

If your agreement involves significant risks and complex terms, contact an attorney to help draft a document that meets your requirements. 

Understanding the clauses of the performance agreement

Introduction

This identifies the document as a pet custody agreement. Provide the names of the parties in capital letters. You may also identify each party by a "shortened name," which can be someone's first or last name or initials.

Recitals

This section offers vital information about the parties. Describe your relationship, including information about the length of time you lived together and the names of the pet(s).

Custody and visitation

Here, you can describe the custody and visitation schedule of pets. For example, 

  • Assigning primary custody of the pets to one spouse or ex-partner while the other is granted visitation rights on specific occasions or periods. In this option, you must include any provisions controlling the arrangement, such as the noncustodial party getting the pets for several weeks in the summer every other weekend.
  • Getting the parties to agree to split the custody of the pets. This means the pet will live half the time with one party and half the time with the other. In this option, the living arrangements should be explained, such as whether the pets' residence will change weekly or every two weeks.

Expenses

This outlines the pet custody arrangements the parties can make to distribute the pet care costs. Discuss and agree on the best arrangement for your situation, including any additional payment arrangements.

Specify who will bear the financial costs for each category mentioned.

  • Whether one of the parties will be solely responsible for those expenses, or
  • Whether the parties agree to split the costs equally, or 
  • Whether the party with physical custody of the pets will pay for those costs when such a financial situation arises

Transportation arrangements

This section of the pet custody agreement outlines the following: 

  • How the pets will be exchanged among the parties during visitation 
  • The party responsible for transporting the pets and paying for the costs (especially if one party has moved far from the original home). It is good to be clear about "long-distance" and agree on the distance that qualifies for transportation costs.

Future income

This provision of the pet agreement allows the pet owners to decide how to divide any income their pets earn.If the pet is showcased in a commercial or wins a pet show, the parties can choose to keep all the money or split it between themselves.If splitting the income, specify the percentage for each party. Mention the person's name if only one co-owner receives all the earnings.

Limitations on Transfer

This optional section of the pet's custody agreement prevents the parties from transferring the pets to the pound or a research facility. If the primary owner or the one who has the pet custody can't take care of them anymore, they must notify the other so that they can either take primary custody, avail of pet daycare facilities, or help find a new home.

Major Decisions

This section explains the options to cover significant medical decisions about pets. For example, 

  • Both parties can decide to share equal responsibility in making major decisions regarding the pets' welfare. 
  • The person with the pets is authorized to make any care decisions in case of an emergency. 
  • Both parties must consult and agree on significant treatment decisions and medical oversight, regardless of whose care the pets are under at that time. 

Additional Provisions

Relevant information: This subsection mentions that both parties promise to keep each other informed of relevant information about the pets.

Access to records: This subsection mentions that both parties have access to pet records and information.

Schedule consultation: This subsection states that the parties must communicate with each other about activities that could interfere with the other party's visitation schedule.

Return of property: This subsection mentions that anything sent to the other party with a pet, such as toys or food, must be returned with the pet.

Contact information: This subsection indicates that if either party moves or changes their contact information, they must inform the other party of the changes.

Other: This optional section provides the pet owners with the opportunity to include any extra requirements that are specific to their arrangement.

Representations

This section details the parties' promises under the agreement. Each party agrees to enter into the arrangement based on the conditions in this section (e.g., each can enter the agreement and satisfy its terms). 

Governing Law

Choice of law: This section of the agreement allows the parties to select the state law to interpret the terms of the agreement. Typically, this is the state where one or both parties reside or conduct their business. The selected state must have a reasonable connection to the parties or their businesses, and its laws will govern the agreement. 

Choice of forum: The forum is the location where the parties' disputes will be resolved. Mention the name of the state where you or the other party can file a lawsuit. This subsection allows the involved parties to file a lawsuit in the country and state mentioned, but it's not mandatory. 

Attorneys' fees: This optional subsection states that if the parties must take legal action to resolve disagreements, the losing party will pay the winning party's attorney's fees. 

Amendments

This section states that the only way either party can change any terms is if that change is both (a) in writing and (b) signed by both parties. This provision is necessary to prevent parties from claiming that a conversation or unsigned email changed the terms of the document.

Counterparts; electronic signatures

This clause states that regardless of where the parties sign the agreement or how they transmit signatures (via electronic devices such as computers or fax machines), all of the separate pieces will be considered part of the same agreement. This provision is beneficial today, where signing parties are often located in different cities and can't be physically present in the same room. It ensures that business can be conducted efficiently without compromising the validity of the agreement.

Severability

This section of the pet custody agreement ensures that the whole agreement remains valid even if a part becomes invalid later. For instance, if a state law prohibits faxed copies of signature pages, it would not make the total custody agreement null and void. Instead, only the references to faxed copies of signature pages would be removed, leaving the rest of the agreement intact. 

However, there is an exception to this section. If any crucial part of the pet agreement becomes invalid, the agreement may be terminated. For example, if a law is passed in your state that prohibits pet custody agreements, the purpose of the agreement would be lost. As a result, the agreement is likely to become invalid in such cases.

Notice

This section of the pet custody agreement mentions the addresses to which all official or legal correspondence should be delivered. Write the mailing address for both the performer and the purchaser.

Waiver

This section states that the parties can only waive rights in writing. If the parties want to change the responsibility, they must create a written, signed waiver or amend the pet agreement.

Entire agreement

The parties' agreement that the document they're signing is "the agreement" about the issues involved. Unfortunately, while this provision won't prevent a party from arguing that other enforceable promises exist, it will protect you from these claims.

Headings

This section of the pet custody agreement explains that the headings at the beginning of each section are meant to organize the document and should not be considered operational parts of the pet custody agreement.

Effectiveness

This section of the pet agreement clarifies that it will be effective when the last party has signed and dated it.

Necessary acts; further assurances

This final clause of the pet custody agreement states that even if a party is not explicitly obligated to sign a document or perform a specific action as per the agreement, the other party can request it if necessary to make the agreement effective. It allows the parties to create an agreement that doesn't list every possible action that may be required. However, if an action becomes necessary to make the pet agreement effective, this clause requires both parties to perform that action. It is important to note that this only applies to reasonable actions, and a party will not be required to do anything and everything possible to make the agreement work.

Frequently asked questions

What's a pet custody agreement?

When a relationship ends, the division of joint property is standard. But when that includes animal companions who feel like family members, a fair custody solution can be challenging. A pet custody agreement establishes terms to compromise on animal care, visitation, and other common concerns.

What are the critical elements of a pet custody agreement?

Here's the information you'll need to have handy to complete your pet custody agreement:

  • Who it pertains to: Have the names of both parties ready.
  • The pets affected: Know the number of pets and their names.
  • Custody decisions: Decide who will have custody of each pet and what visitation rights the other party will have.
  • Expenses: Be ready to propose decisions about pet care costs, including food, medical needs, and toys.