Breaking up is hard enough, but when you have to figure out what to do with your pet, it can be even more challenging. If you're going through a divorce and hope to keep your pet, here are some things you'll need to consider.
Pets Are Considered Property in a Marriage
Under common and civil law, pets are classified as moveable property. In the event of a divorce, pets are subject to division like any other possession.
Showing Entitlement to the Pet
To protect your beloved pet during this time, you must show the court that you are entitled to it. This means that you have a justifiable reason for sole ownership.
Proving Entitlement Through Primary Use
“Primary user” refers to the person who used an item most. The primary user could be the person who spends more time with the pet or has a closer bond with it.
Proving Entitlement Through Contribution or Maintenance
Contribution to or maintenance of an asset can determine how the court will divide the property between the spouses. The most common example of this would be the home. One spouse may spend money on the house, but the other is responsible for its upkeep. The one who kept the place clean and managed remodels may be able to keep it after the divorce.
Inter terms of pets, contribution or maintenance refers to responsibilities such as feeding, walking, grooming, and providing medical care. If only one spouse managed these obligations, they may be able to prove they are the pet’s rightful owner.
Courts Considering the Bond Between Pet and Owner
These days, courts are more comfortable assessing the relationship each partner has with their four-legged friends. Ultimately, these connections will impact how happy and healthy the animal will be. Courts, in this respect, can look at pet ownership the same way they do child custody.
Joint custody of a pet is becoming increasingly common in divorce proceedings. More people view their pets as family members, and both parties can agree to share time and responsibility for the animal. Like a child custody ruling, joint pet custody can involve dividing up days or weeks of possession.
When a spouse has physical custody of the pet, they are responsible for it. They must manage food, play, exercise, veterinary expenses, and so on.
If you and your spouse choose the route, you must establish clear guidelines and agreements for joint custody. A written settlement includes times, pickup and drop-off locations, specific duties and responsibilities, and so on. This will ensure that both parties are committed to the arrangement and that the pet's needs are met.
You consult with an attorney for guidance on how to proceed in your specific case. The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, PLC is familiar with all aspects of family law, and our team can make sure your pet receives the proper care and love after a divorce.
To schedule time with our office, you can fill out our online contact form or call us at (515) 200-7571.