Sad Dog. Owers in Battle for Pet CustodyIf you are a pet owner you know they are not just an animal, they are a member of the family. If you are a married couple without kids, you might consider your pet as your child. If you are a married couple with kids, you might consider your pet your son/daughter’s brother or sister. Even if none of the aforementioned statements apply to you, your pet is still one of your best friends and no one wants to lose a best friend, especially when going through a difficult time like a divorce.

In the past, pets used to be considered personal property in divorce cases, but over the last 15 years, that model has been changing. It is now more common than ever that custody over pets is being treated similarly to the custody of children.

Pet Custody Case Statistics

According to the American Pet Products Association, 144.2 million of American households own a pet. Dogs and cats are the most popular pets among pet-owning households. 60.2 million American households own an average amount of 1.49 dogs per household. 47.1 million American households own an average of 2.00 cats.

In 2014 the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers took a survey of its members and the statistics were revealing. 88% of pet custody battle were couples fighting over who gets the dog, and 5% of cases were couples fighting over who gets the cat. The results of the study illustrated that attorneys are noticing an increasing number of pet custody cases.

What Happens in Divorce Court?

When a married couple is planning on getting a divorces it has the potential to get messy for every party involved. Thing such as child support, child custody, child visitation and the division of assets all need to be sorted out if the couple can’t reach an agreement. A point of contention that also needs to be addressed is who gets custody of the beloved pet.

Some of the factors that weigh into the judge’s decision about pet custody include:

  • Did the pet belong to one party pre-marriage?
    • If the pet belonged to one party pre-marriage, technically the pet is that party’s “personal property”, therefore, the judge is likely to rule in the favor of the respective party.
  • Is there a prenuptial agreement? If so, is the pet included in that agreement?
    • Although we love them like family, pets are still considered personal property, therefore one party can claim the pet in their prenuptial agreement.
  • Where are the children going?
    • Often times in a pet custody case, the judge will award the family pet to the party that has physical custody of the children.
  • Who has the better living situation for the pet?
    • Another factor the judge will consider in a pet custody case is the living situations of the parties. If one living situation is better suited for a pet than the other, then the judge will most likely award that party the pet.
  • Who provides for the pet?
    • In some cases, the judge will rule in favor of the party that can prove they are the financial supporter of the pet. In other words, if one party is responsible for purchasing pet supplies (food, treats, toys, beds, etc.), pay for veterinarian visits, and take on any other cost that a pet owner may incur.

Contact Our Divorce Attorneys

We have the experience of negotiating pet agreements for our clients, even if you were not the owner of the pet pre-marriage. We will help you get the documents you need to help prove that you are financially responsible for the pet or help prove that the pet will be safe in your living conditions.

At the end of the day, a pet is a man’s best friends. Pet owners build strong emotional bonds to their dogs, cats, or any other animal they own. If you are going through the process of divorce and are worried that you might lose your pet, contact one of our divorce lawyers today.