For the seven out of ten households in the United States that own a pet, pets can feel like part of the family. However, when that family is separated through a divorce, the question of who now owns the family pet can become complicated. As divorce rates climb, with half of all marriages now ending in divorce, more and more households are having to address this difficult situation. To help clear up some confusion, here is a brief introduction to pet custody law within the United States.
Is Pet Custody Like Child Custody?
Typically, pet custody is not handled in the same manner as child custody. This is because legally speaking, pets are considered personal property, regardless of how much they might feel like family. In the eyes of the law, pets are treated the same as any other belongings the couple may own, with a few exceptions; anti-cruelty laws will factor into pet ownership, but not furniture ownership, for example.
While partners may agree to visitation among themselves, this generally is not an issue considered by the court. However, when partners cannot agree on a set of guidelines for visiting the pet, the courts may step in to help the couple reach an agreement. Since the pet is considered personal property that quite literally cannot be split between the two parties, a solution might involve scheduling time for both parties to see the pet, one partner paying the other as part of a full-custody arrangement, or other solutions.
So Who Gets The Pet?
Who takes primary or full custody of the pet or pets in question will largely depend on a few factors. First, the financial aspect is considered; who bought the pet? Did one partner pay for adoption fees, or did one partner own the pet before the two married? If one partner has more of a financial investment in the pets, they may be preferred for custody.
Additionally, the amount of care each partner contributed to taking care of the pet will factor in. This, clearly, will vary depending on the type of pets in question; any one of the 38,900,000 households that own cats can attest to the fact that a cat is likely lower maintenance than a dog, and this will factor into who provided the most care for the pet.
The situations surrounding the divorce and the specific, individual circumstances will factor into pet custody. For more information on how pet custody law might affect your situation, contact a family lawyer or a divorce attorney. Pet custody can be complicated depending on the situation of the individuals involved, and seeking the advice of a professional can help you find an amicable arrangement.