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What happens to the family pet during divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2023 | Divorce

Divorce is a life-altering event that affects the couple involved and their entire family, including any beloved pets they may own. Unfortunately, pets are often overlooked within the divorce process until the last minute.

Pets hold a special place in their owners’ hearts, and they become cherished family members over the years. Their unwavering loyalty, unconditional love and constant companionship can provide comfort during times of stress and change. However, when a marriage ends, the fate of these furry friends can become contentious. Here’s what happens to a family pet in a divorce.

Legal status of pets

Legally, pets are considered personal property in divorce proceedings. This means they are subject to property division rules, similar to other valuable assets. However, the emotional bond between humans and their pets cannot be understated, leading to a growing push for change in the legal system.

In recent years, the perception of pets has evolved from mere property to cherished family members, and this shift has raised crucial questions about their treatment during divorces. While pets are not granted the same legal status as children, courts are now more inclined to consider factors such as who primarily cared for the pet, who can provide a suitable environment and the pet’s overall welfare.

Factors considered in pet custody

When determining pet custody arrangements during contested divorce cases (in uncontested cases, couples can agree on any terms that they deem appropriate), courts may assess who was the primary caregiver for the pet. This includes feeding, grooming and providing medical care. The individual who has historically taken on these responsibilities may be favored in custody decisions.

The court will also evaluate the living situations of both parties. Factors such as a stable home environment, access to outdoor spaces and other pets or children in the household can influence the court’s decision. And since pet care can be expensive, courts may also consider each party’s financial ability to provide for the pet’s needs, including food, medical care and other necessary expenses.

The legal landscape is slowly shifting to acknowledge pets’ special place in their owners’ lives, especially during divorce proceedings. While pets don’t have the same legal status as children, considering their well-being and happiness is becoming increasingly important. If you are facing a contested divorce situation and you have questions about how it will impact your pet, don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance.