OK, it might just be a bit too animal-centric and precious to refer to premarital contracts as “pre-pups,” as a recent media article does, but the term is purposefully stated and does make a very valid point.

That point is this: Pets are much beloved members in millions of families across the country, Pennsylvania homes not being excepted, and their well-being is a central consideration to the families in which they are cherished additions.

Reportedly, there are close to 180 million cats and dogs living in homes in the United States, and the humans with whom they interact view them as far more than personal property.

That, though, is how judges across the country have historically viewed them, especially in family law disputes where important aspects of their future are being determined.

Yes, that means that judges in many divorce cases haven’t looked upon the family dog or cat as being much different — at least legally — from a sofa or a refrigerator. In millions of cases, a “custody” outcome regarding a pet has hinged on a simple determinations concerning who paid for the animal and primarily provided for its upkeep.

Most Americans immediately dismiss notions of their loved animals as objects, and many of them just as quickly express repugnance over going to court to have an important pet-related matter pronounced upon by a judge who has no personal interest in the animal.

Thus the uptake in prenuptial agreements, with one commentator on the subject noting that important matters such as primary custody and visitation regarding a pet can be stressed in such contracts and held enforceable.

And, yes, litigation is an option, with it also being noted that some judges are changing their tune on how they oversee pet-related disputes before them. In one recently referenced case, a judge called for a one-day hearing based on a “best for all concerned” standard that considered the best interests of the pet and humans involved, respectively.

Such a judicial mindset seems respectful of a matter that litigants unquestionably take very seriously, as well as acknowledges the tremendous importance that pets have in millions of American families.

Source: USA TODAY, “Pets increasingly at center of divorce battles,” Cameron Saucier, Aug. 24, 2014