During Divorce, Pets Are Property

Divorcing couples often fight about everything as they go through the division of property and assets. Who will get custody of the children, who will get the marital home, and how much spousal support will be paid and to whom are all issues that commonly arise in a divorce. But one of the less common points of contention talked about by divorcing couples is who gets custody of the pet that they shared during the marriage.

Many couples get a pet together before having children, while many others decide to start their family and get a pet so that their baby grows up with a furry companion. When a pet is acquired during the marriage, it is considered to be a marital asset, and both spouses own a share of it jointly. However, pets that were owned by one spouse prior to marriage, or pets that were specifically given as a gift or as a bequest to one spouse during the marriage, are not considered marital property, and are completely owned by the individual spouse.

Pet Custody in a Divorce

Pets can be a big part of a family. But while you might see Polly, Fluffy or Bingo as a close friend and family member, the law does not view him or her the same way. Under the law, pets are effectively personal property, and as a piece of personal property, only one of the divorcing spouses will get to keep the pet. Like any other article of property, it is in the best interest of the divorcing couple to come to an agreement with regards to who will get custody of the pet, because otherwise the court will have to make the decision instead.

How Is Pet Custody Decided?

If the court ultimately is charged with deciding who gets the marital pet, the pet will usually be given no additional special value and will be distributed according to an equitable division of the couple’s assets and property. However, in the event that the marital pet carries some sort of special value, there are additional factors that the court may consider if appropriate based on the animal and its unique value. For instance, if the couple has a special aid-providing dog, such as a seeing-eye dog, or a dog especially trained to provide services for one of the spouses, the court is more likely to grant custody of the dog to that spouse.

Similarly, if one spouse spent an exorbitant amount of time training the animal, which is common in cases of show animals or animals that have utility once trained, like horses, the court will consider this when making a custody determination. The monetary value of the animal is also a factor for those animals having unusual value, such as purebred animals or unique breeds.

Couples Can Decide Who Gets The Pet

If a couple can agree to it, they may handle the custody issue of their marital pet. While it is usually simpler to just have one spouse or the other take custody of the pet after the divorce, some couples do work out a custody schedule where both ex-spouses get to spend time with the pet.

When You Need a Divorce Lawyer

Pets are very important in many people’s lives and are sometimes a point of contention in divorce. If you are planning on getting divorced and have concerns about the custody of your pet, you can contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Sarji Law Firm, LLC are here to help you. Your problems are our problems. Please call us today at 843-323-4341.