When The Fur Flies: Pet Custody And Divorce

Most people consider their dog, cat or other pet to be part of their family, and the fight over who gets custody of that pet can be just as contentious as that of a child. When both the husband and the wife think they are entitled to pet custody, how does the judge decide? You may be surprised to find out that the law sees your fur-baby drastically differently than you do. Read on for more information about this issue.

Who gets custody?

The first thing to be understood about this issue is that the law sees pets not as members of the family, but as property. Children under the age of 18 are considered minors, and the law has very specific rules and guidelines to follow when determining related issues like child support, visitation and custody. The pet, however, tends to be lumped in with other contested property like real estate or a bank account. It seems that more people than ever before own pets, but when the original divorce laws were created, animals were considered property (very valuable property in some cases) and those laws have not been updated in most cases.

Try to come to an agreement on your own.

Any issue, no matter what it is, is better decided by the two people who know and understand that issue best. Consider several options, such as sharing ownership 50/50 and even visitation plans that can give both you and your pet the benefit of two loving pet parents. If you cannot come to an agreement about who gets Fluffy, you may have to leave it up to the judge, however.

If the judge must decide for you:

The judge will evaluate this issue based not only using the type of divorce property laws your state follows (either community property or equitable distribution), but also using other factors, like the following:

  1. Who purchased the pet?
  2. Was it a gift, and if so, for whom?
  3. Who took on the larger share of the day-to-day burden of caring for that pet? Who did the litter box cleaning, the walking, the feeding and watering, etc?
  4. Who primarily was responsible for taking the pet to the vet?
  5. Is there a minor child who is emotionally attached to the pet?
  6. Who can provide the best living environment for the pet? For example, is there a fenced yard for that large dog to play in?

To get more information about this issue, contact a firm such as Granowitz, White & Weber Attorneys at Law.