Many married couples treat their furry friends like children. This is particularly true for couples who do not have any children yet. However, if the marriage ends, then pet custody becomes a point of contention.
During divorce proceedings, the topic of pet ownership can come up. If you and your spouse both actively want the dog or cat, then the judge will need to decide who is the best fit for overseeing the pet’s well-being. However, it is also important to consider whether you can reach a resolution outside of the courtroom.
Marital vs. separate property
Judges view dogs and cats as property rather than human beings. That means the court first needs to determine whether the animal is marital or separate property. Marital property is anything acquired during your marriage with both of your funds. Separate property is anything acquired before the marriage. It can also include items acquired during the marriage if a person gained something through an inheritance. That means if one spouse received his parents’ dog after they both passed away, then the dog would be separate property in the eyes of the court.
The court may consider outside forces when determining who should receive ownership of the pet. For example, if one spouse can provide evidence the other spouse neglected to care for the animal, then the judge may award the pet to the spouse who actively cares for the animal’s health.
Before going to court
Divorce is already a hectic and lengthy process. Your attorney will most likely advise you to determine who receives ownership of the cat or dog before heading into court. If you know for a fact you will move to another town, then it may be best if you left the pet with your former spouse. Many animals do not do well with change, and you need to think about the happiness of your four-legged friend.