How Pet Custody Is Addressed In A Divorce Proceeding

How Pet Custody Is Addressed In A Divorce Proceeding

Pet custody issues are resolved by determining whether the pet is separate or community property, who has the strongest attachment to the pet and who is the primary caregiver.

When there's a divorce, determining who gets the family home or dividing a 401k, for instance, are just a couple of common issues that need resolving. However, figuring out pet custody issues are just as essential. According to the U.S. Census from 2010, over 70 percent of U.S. homes own a pet.

But pets are not viewed as property to the average family so many do not categorize them among the long list of assets that need dividing. Pets often come with emotional ties and, similar to children, custody determinations are often needed when there's a divorce.

In mediation or collaboration-types of legal negotiations that take place outside of a courtroom-figuring out pet custody arrangements are usually done among the parties.

However, many divorces are simply too contentious and a judge is needed to step in to make decisions. However, the issue regarding family pets can be problematic when parties opt to go to court. This is because pets in the eyes of a court are viewed as property.

Typically a judge will look at various factors when making pet custody determinations.

Factors To Help Determine Pet Custody

First, the judge will decide if the pet is separate or community property. A pet is considered separate property if the animal was purchased prior to the marriage or with one party's money. If a pet is not viewed as separate property, the pet is labeled as community property and the judge must determine which party gets custody. Various factors are considered.

Which party has the strongest attachment to the animal is one factor. It is not uncommon for professionals or family members who know the pet to testify to help make this determination. Another factor is figuring out which party is viewed as the primary caregiver. Proof of vet bills or pet food receipts is often requested to establish this.

Today, pet custody issues are becoming more and more prevalent; more so than in past years.

As pets become increasingly viewed as family members and not simply possessions, courts may establish concrete precedence on how they are treated in the eyes of the law, particularly family law judges.

Consulting With A Divorce Attorney

If you are going through or contemplating a divorce and have questions about your pet and custody issues, seeking the advice of an experienced family law attorney is advised. A lawyer can offer guidance and advice on the law as it pertains to your animal as well other areas that typically are addressed in a divorce such as spousal support and property division.

Contact Burch, Coulston & Shepard, LLP

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