Thinking about pet custody during and after divorce

On behalf of Furr & Cohen, P.A. posted in Family Law on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

If you are a pet owner, you likely understand why the issue of pet custody can be a contentious one when couples divorce. Sometimes, when spouses choose to move their separate ways, one spouse will willingly give up rights to mutual pets due to personal preference, living restrictions or other reasons. However, spouses often end up disputing who should retain ownership of their beloved pets.

Courts are divided on how pet custody issues should be decided. Many treat pet ownership as a matter of property division. Although, an increasing number of judges are treating pet ownership during and post-divorce as a matter of custody to be decided in the pet’s interest. This approach tends to parallel the ways that judges are compelled to decide child custody cases.

It is worth noting that in most cases, if a spouse entered the marriage already owning a specific pet that the ownership of that pet will almost always revert to the original pet possessor.

If you are currently navigating a divorce, it may benefit you and your spouse to approach pet custody as you would a child custody dispute. As a loving pet owner, you likely want what is best for your pet first and foremost. If you and your spouse approach the issue of who should retain ownership of your pet as a matter of who can best care for him or her, the issue may sort itself out. However, you can certainly consult an experienced family law attorney if your disagreement cannot be resolved in a straightforward manner.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Fighting Over Cats and Dogs During a Divorce,” Maria Cognetti, March 24, 2014