Who gets to keep the pet after a divorce?

Who gets to keep the pet after a divorce?

pet with owner

When divorcing, you will be confronted with many hotly contested issues including property division, spousal support, child support, and child custody. However, many couples do not realize they will also be confronted with the stress of determining who keeps the pet bought together. In most cases, couples consider pets as members of their family, so it can be disheartening to learn that the court considers pets personal property similar to appliances and other items that are divided between the divorcing couple. If you are concerned about being awarded pet custody, you should contact a trusted Nassau County Divorce Attorney who can help you resolve this issue. In addition, keep reading to learn who may be able to keep the pet in a divorce. 

How is pet custody handled in a divorce?

If you want to keep pet custody out of court, you should consider creating a pet custody agreement. Similarly to prenuptial agreements, a couple can create this type of legal contract that stipulates what will happen to their pet in the event the marriage fails. However, with a pet custody agreement, it is in your best interest to establish this legal document before you and your partner separate. If you do not establish it beforehand, the negative emotions surrounding the divorce can cloud both your and your former spouse’s judgments resulting in an unfavorable agreement. If you have a pet custody agreement in place, the court will likely enforce it unless the state where you reside has pet custody laws that require a judge to consider the pet’s best interests.

In some states, there are pet custody laws. Traditionally, courts consider pets as personal property. However, in many states, laws have changed regarding pet custody. Nowadays, some states determine pet custody like they would determine child custody. Courts must consider several factors to determine the pet’s best interests to help decide where it should live. In New York, judges are legally required in divorce proceedings to consider the animal’s best interests. Therefore, the court will typically consider the following factors when determining a pet custody agreement:

  • Who purchased the pet?
  • Whether the pet was purchased before or during the marriage.
  • Whether there are children attached to the pet.
  • Who takes care of the pet?
  • Who pays for the pet’s necessities such as the vet, food, and medicine?
  • Who has more space for the pet at their home?
  • Who spends more time with their pet?
  • Whether either party has exhibited animal cruelty.

Ultimately, the court will consider several factors when determining a pet custody decision similar to a child custody judgment. If you and your former spouse cannot reach a mutual agreement on the custody of your pet, you may consider alternative options such as mediation or arbitration rather than using the courts. This will save you a substantial amount of time and money as during divorce proceedings pets are often used as bargaining chips.

To improve your chances of getting a pet when divorcing, you need a determined Nassau County divorce attorney on your side. Pets are irreplaceable members of our families. Our firm is prepared to fight on your behalf to help you seek custody of your beloved pets.


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