Divorce and Pets

divorce and pets

A common area of contention in many divorce cases is that involving the disposition of pets – companion animals – after a marriage ends. There are a number of factors a party to a divorce must bear in mind when it comes to dealing with the issue of divorce and pets.

Divorce and Pets: Property or Something More

For many years, pets were considered pieces of property by law and court practice. Rights to pet ownership and possession following a divorce were subject to essentially the same standards of division utilized in regard to other items of property.

Over time, the actual practice employed in some courts adjusted to the reality that most pet owners consider their companion animals to be something more than items of property. Pets were more akin to members of the family than pieces of furniture.

In some jurisdictions, there actually have been modifications in the law. These legal changes recognize the unique position pets or companion animals maintain in the lives of humans, including men and women seeking to end their marriages.

An experienced divorce attorney can assist a client in dealing with issues associated with pets. A divorce lawyer will be able to explain how the laws in a particular state address pets in divorce cases.

Factors Considered by Court in Determining Pet “Custody

In those jurisdictions that do consider pets more than property, there are a variety of factors that can come into play when a court must make decisions regarding pet custody. The most fundamental determination that is made pertains to which party was the primary caretaker of the companion animal during the course of the marriage.

Oftentimes, one spouse will be more directly connected to a particular pet and provide primary care for that companion animal. That history typically carries great weight when it comes to making divorce related decisions about which party will become the custodian of a particular pet. This type of historical analysis can result in different pets going with different spouses in cases involving multiple companion animals.

Divorce and Pets: Pet Visitation

Divorce decrees that include provisions for so-called pet visitation are becoming ever more commonplace. Quite like addressing the matter of minor children, one party becomes the primary custodian of a pet. The other parent is then permitted specifically, court-ordered visitation with the pet.

A person who imagines pets will become an issue in a divorce case should promptly advise an attorney of this possibility. A proactive approach ensures that a person’s interests in regard to pets is best protected.