If you and your spouse are about to get divorced, you may have a lot more to lose than the house or other pieces of property. While custody that involves a child can be emotional and heartrending, what about those furry friends that some consider a part of the family? The law has an interesting take on pet custody, so read on and read more.
Animals and the Law
The law sees things a bit differently than most do when it comes to animals. As far as the law goes, animals are viewed strictly as property. In the past, when our culture had more agrarian leanings, having a herd of cattle or a stable of horses meant you had a lot of property; a lot of very valuable property. Now, not as many people own great number of animals, but the law is the same. This means that there has been no new laws made to deal with animals as pets when a couple divorces.
So, Who Gets the Pet?
While pets are undoubtedly considered martial property, the judge cannot simply divide the animal up or make decisions about it like it was an inanimate object. This means that who gets the cat, dog or African pygmy hedgehog depends on several factors. As a word of warning, having the courts decide on who gets pet custody is the least favored way of dealing with this issue. You two, as the pet parents, are better qualified to make this decision since you know your pet the best. Consider shared custody, if that is an option or even visitation. These provisions are likely not legally enforceable, but having a private agreement is far better than having a stranger make the choices for you.
How the Judge Will See it
Answer these questions to help you foresee what the judge might do:
1. Who purchased the pet?
2. Who primarily cared for the pet? That means the walking, vet visits, feeding, etc.
3. Was the pet a gift to one party?
4. Is there a minor child who is attached to the pet, and if so, who is getting primary physical custody of that child?
5. Is one party in a position to provide a better living environment for the pet? For example, a fenced back yard or a bark park nearby could make the pet happier.
This can, unsurprisingly, be a hot button issue during divorce. Speak to your family law attorney about this very special form of marital property.