Do you think worrying about what happens to a dog or cat, when there is a divorce, is silly? If you have a pet and are a pet lover, you probably will not think so.
When a couple decides to divorce, the question of who gets the pets is very common. Pet lovers do not buy an animal: They adopt a family member. However, while the law focuses on the best interests of human children, the Courts see pets as simply personal property. Therefore, Courts commonly make decisions pursuant to that concept.
Under the law, asking for custody or visitation rights for pets is along the lines of asking for the right to keep a television or a microwave, or any other personal property. Courts will typically start by deciding if the pet belongs to the couple or an individual. If the pet was acquired or shared during a marriage, then it is ordinarily considered marital property. The court then goes through the same steps as it would other property, such as assigning a value.
As reported by the Official Blog of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, “…legally, pets are still property. And overburdened courts are unlikely to take on the challenge of supervising how divorcing couples deal with their pets…. [D]on’t for a minute think that court is a good place to resolve your disagreements about who gets the dog….[C]ourts do not treat custody battles over pets like they do child custody cases; they will not consider the ‘best interests of the pet’.”
However, if who gets the family pet becomes a contentious issue, the courts may, at times, take into consideration:
- Who can provide the best care for a pet?
- Who has the strongest emotional bond?
- Was the pet given as a gift to a specific person or the couple?
Keep in mind that the person awarded primary physical custody of any children is likely to be granted the family pet, as well.
If you would like to speak with an attorney about your divorce and obtaining the ownership of your pets, please call our office to schedule a consultation.