In this day and age, pets are more than a person’s animal companion. Instead, many people consider them as family. That is why divorces often give rise to disputes about who gets to keep the pet.
A matter that falls under the property division
Despite a person’s emotional bond with their pet, courts categorize pet ownership disputes as part of the property division process, not custody, in a divorce. For division purposes, courts consider pets as personal property and will apply the equitable property division to determine who, between the parties, gets them.
How the equitable property division rule applies to pets
Like other assets in marriage, courts will determine whether a pet is a marital or separate property. For reference, separate property includes pets owned before the marriage, pets given as gifts or individually inherited pets. If the court finds the pet to be a separate asset, then the original owner gets them.
However, if the spouses got their pet during the marriage, it is generally marital. If so, the courts will consider the unique factors surrounding the case to determine who keeps them.
Exploring options regarding your pet
If the situation allows, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse can mediate what will happen to your pet after the divorce. Since you are free to be creative with your negotiation, you can discuss a shared “custody” schedule if full ownership is off the table.
However, if you and your ex cannot really agree, bringing the issue to court can provide you with a neutral outcome since the judge will be looking at the circumstances fairly.
No matter what path you decide to take, it is important for you to understand your rights and fight for them as much as you can.