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Who gets the dog? Pet custody issues in divorce

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2022 | divorce and family law |

Dividing assets during a divorce is not always a simple process, especially when the assets in question are animals you both love dearly.

There are many laws pertaining to child custody, but when it comes to animal companions, there are very few specific regulations. As a pet owner, you must understand how the law works when determining pet custody.

From a legal standpoint, pets are property

To most pet owners, pets are family members. The law, however, generally regards them as property. When it is time to decide who gets the family pets, the court is likely to treat them as assets.

Marital vs. separate assets

Determining pet custody may be fairly straightforward if the pets qualify as separate property.

Generally, if you acquired a pet before you were married, the pet is your separate property. The same is true for property you inherit during your marriage. If, for example, your grandmother dies and leaves you her horse, the horse is separate property because it is an inheritance.

Mediation can help resolve pet custody battles

Due to the complex emotional relationships that most people have with their animal companions, pet custody is more complicated than property rights. If you and your spouse have lived together for most of an animal’s life, chances are you have both developed a strong bond with the pet, even if the pet is legally one person’s separate property.

In rare cases, judges have awarded pet visitation, but this is not the norm. Instead of leaving the decision up to a judge, consider pursuing mediation. Mediation can help you work out what is best for your animals.

Deciding who should get custody of the family pets can be an emotional battle. Resolving pet custody issues requires cooperation and compromise from both parties.