Pets are often forgotten in the planning stages of a divorce, but for most people pets hold great significance and may be part of the family. You can view your cats, dogs, horses or other pets in the same light as your children and believe that they are your personal property. So how does it work when you or your partner leaves the house? Who gets to keep the pets, and who is responsible for the costs of their care?
Pets As Property
While you may consider your pets members of your family, a pet is usually treated as property in the eyes of the law. This means that pet ownership can be divided just as the vehicles in a marriage are divided.
Disputes can arise over whether the pet is the separate property of one of the spouses. Pets are considered shared property while the marriage is ongoing. However, one spouse could claim that the pet was a gift from the other partner, therefore making the person who received the gift the sole property owner in the eyes of the court. If the couple bought the dog together, it can be viewed as community property and must be awarded to one spouse or another.
However, a couple can also choose to co-own a pet and create a visitation schedule that involves the pet going back and forth between the two divorcees. If left to a judge, the court will probably assign the pet to one partner, so a co-ownership arrangement must usually be done by agreement.
The pet visitation schedule is drawn up like a child’s visitation schedule. Both parties are expected to share in financial costs such as travelling fees and medical bills.
Custody issues over pets are on the rise. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a poll surveying 1,500 of its members found that a quarter had noticed an increase in pet custody issues. There have even been cases in which the courts have been asked to identify the best interests of the pet in a divorce case with these decisions leading to a spouse being denied visitation rights.
Deciding who gets to keep the pet can often be a complicated issue. You want to see your pet as often as possible if you share an emotional bond with it. At the Men’s Legal Center, we can help you develop custody terms if you and your spouse will share a pet or fight for your right to keep the pet. Contact the Men’s Legal Center now to book an initial consultation.