Pets, Property And Divorce

It's not only child custody that is hotly contested in divorce court; an increasing number of divorcing parents of "fur babies" are also finding themselves in a contentious battle. People love their animals and consider them their children, so when it comes time to part ways problems can arise. Read on to learn more about how the family court system treats "pet custody" issues.

How does the law view pets?

Unlike most pet parents, the law views pets as property, just like the family silver or the car. This is a relatively new area of contention in the family courts, so the way that states deal with pets can vary. You should understand, however, that this issue will likely be at the discretion of the family court judge, since the law does recognize pets in any manner other than marital property.

Using a prenuptial agreement to preempt this problem

If you have not yet tied the knot, you still have time to address the pet issue and possibly forestall any potential upcoming issues. Many couples refuse to consider the possibility of a separation before they are married, but a prenuptial agreement can present couples with an excellent opportunity to learn more about each other and decide on some contentious issues ahead of time. In general, there are no hard-and-fast rules for prenuptial agreements, so couples can customize a legal documents that addresses their own concerns and issues. Even if you don't already have a pet, provisions for future pets can be addressed.

How will pet "custody" be decided?

It's always quicker and easier for you and your spouse to decide on divorce issues ahead of time, but if you cannot, the family court judge will be called upon to decide for you. When it comes to determining who will get to keep the pet, the following factors will be considered:

  • Who owned the pet prior to marriage?
  • Who bought the pet?
  • Was the pet a gift to one party or the other? Gifts are always the property of the person who received the gift.
  • Who was primarily responsible for the care of the pet on a day-to-day basis?
  • Who will provide the best living environment for the pet after the divorce? The judge may determine that a fenced-in backyard or close proximity to a bark park is a much better environment than a high-rise downtown condo.
  • Can the couple work together on a split-ownership plan? This can often be the best solution if the couple can abide by the rules and is often the only route to take if both parties seem to be fit pet parents.

This emotional issue can throw a monkey wrench into the divorce agreement, so consult with a divorce attorney like Joanna Cobleigh Esq to get more information about how the law views your pet during a divorce.