While many couples going through a divorce disagree on matters of child custody and parenting time, a new type of custody case has been coming before the courts more and more: pet custody. If you or your soon-to-be ex-adopted pets during your relationship, it can be tough to decide who gets to keep which animals. However, it’s important to understand that the courts are very limited in what they can order when it comes to pet custody and visitation.
In most cases, pets are considered part of the marital property, which means the regular property division guidelines apply and they are not subject to things like custody and access. Like with other assets, the judge will be able to grant one party ownership of the pets and order that party to pay the other half of the pet’s value, but that’s all.
There have been some cases in the past, however, where a judge did give a specific order involving a pet custody case, so it is possible. It may be better, though, to try to work out an arrangement that is agreeable to both parties and then talk to a lawyer to see if it can be made part of the official divorce settlement.
As a last note, it’s important to understand that much of this only works in official property division settlements subject to a legal marriage and divorce. If you are not married to your partner or are unsure if the property division guidelines apply, it may be best to talk with a lawyer before moving forward.
Source: FindLaw, “Who gets custody of the family pet when a couple separates or divorces?,” Miriam Yosowich, accessed June 06, 2016
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