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‘Dividing’ your pet during and post-divorce

Many pet owners consider their creatures to be family, not property. And yet, pets are most often treated as a matter of property division in divorces, not as subjects of custody disputes. Certainly, some courts treat pets more like children than property. But this area of law is still evolving, so most jurisdictions treat pets as subjects of property division settlements.

Because courts take varied approaches to matters of “dividing” beloved pets during and after divorce, it is important to speak with a local attorney about how judges in your area tend to treat the subject of pet custody. An experienced local attorney should be able to walk you through how judges in your area tend to address this issue.

Whether judges treat pets as subjects of custody disputes or property division, pets tend to be returned to their original owners unless a compelling reason exists for placing the pet with the spouse who did not purchase him or her before the marriage began. If a pet was purchased during the marriage, then it will either be up to the spouses to decide on custody arrangements or a judge to decide if the parties cannot agree on what the arrangements should be.

As a judge may weigh a variety of factors in determining where a pet should be placed, it is best to work out the arrangements with your spouse when possible. If you simply cannot agree on an arrangement, you and your attorney will need to work together to determine how to craft a case that argues the best interests of the pet and the reasons why you should be given custody of the pet if you desire to keep him or her.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Divorce Confidential: Crafting a Creative Pet Parenting Plan,” Caroline Choi, Nov. 19, 2014