What happens to pets when you divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2018 | Firm News

People who have pets usually treat them like treasured members of the family. This gives that animal a loving home while they are living there. The love for them can become a bit of a challenge if they are at the center of a divorce. Many people don’t realize that pets aren’t treated any differently from other property, such as homes, cars and furniture, during a divorce.

This leaves some people befuddled as they scramble to fight for the pets they love. Unfortunately, there are only two states that don’t treat pets as property – Illinois and Alaska. Here in California, it is possible that the judge might order the dog to be sold and the proceeds divided between the spouses.

You have an option

One of the best options that you have for dealing with a contentious pet issue is to try to work out the agreement with your ex during the property division phase of the negotiations. This gives each of you some control over what happens, which isn’t possible when you have to turn to the court system to rule on the matter.

The ultimate arrangement when you negotiate with your ex can vary greatly. It might entail having a custody agreement of sorts for the pet that gives each person a chance to have the pet with them. One couple used a weekly schedule so their dog spent a week with one person and the next week with the other.

Important points to consider

If the court does have to make the decision for you, it will treat the pet as property unless there are some extenuating circumstances. Sometimes, courts have ruled that the pet needs to remain with the children so the animal will follow the same parenting schedule as the kids.

Another issue is if the pet is registered as an emotional support animal. This status could mean that the court must leave the animal with the person to whom it is registered. The same is true of service dogs, which usually remain with the person they serve.

Even though you are attached to your pets, you must think logically about these matters. Coming up with a plan for the pet might be possible, but you have to decide if it is something that you can keep up for the long term. In some cases, you might find that you need to start fresh with a new pet that you can raise as you see fit.