Family pets in divorceWe often hear about the battles over child custody or big assets, such as a home, boat, or car, but what about pets in divorce? If you are a pet owner, it is probably no surprise that the battles to keep the family pet are often just as ugly as they are in child custody. Is this something that could cause the divorce to end up in court? You better believe it!

We Treat Our Pet Like Our Child

Believe me, you are not alone. However, in the eyes of the court, a pet is not a person, but rather personal property. That being the case, the pet can be put into a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage. If there is no prenuptial agreement, the battle over who gets to take the pet home may end up in court.

Who Gets the Pet?

The first question to be answered is if one person actually owned the pet prior to the divorce. If so, this person will probably have a stronger case as to ownership of the “property,” as it was his or hers before ever getting married. If not, many aspects of the case will sound similar to a child custody battle.

There are a few questions you can ask that will help you figure out if you have enough of a case to win the pet in divorce court:

Who is getting custody of the children? If you have children, there is a very good chance the “family” pet will end up with them. The courts always look at the best interests of the children during a divorce settlement and ripping away their family pet is not likely to be something most judges will want to do.

Who is the main caretaker for the pet? Just like the children, the courts will want to know to this point, who has been the primary caretaker of the animal. In some or all of these instances, it will be the children who perform these tasks, making it more likely the family pet will end up wherever the children end up. Some question to ask are:

  • Who buys the food?
  • Who takes the pet to the vet?
  • Who takes the pet for its walks?

Who has a better home for the pet? This question is also asked in a child custody case. Do you have a big yard or are you going to be living in a small apartment? Are you on the road all time or do you work from home? Do you have the disposable income to provide the pet with the proper care and food?

If you are thinking about using the pet as leverage against your spouse, don’t do it. Consider the fact that over half the households in the United States have pets in them. This means there is a very good chance the judge sitting on your case owns a pet. If he or she sees you using the pet to hold your spouse over a barrel, you may lose a lot more than ownership of the pet.

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