What Happens to My Pet During a Divorce?

When it comes to divorce, there is often a lot of discussion about how custody will be split, how assets will be divided, etc.  But, there is another topic that must be determined in many divorces – what will happen to the family pet after a divorce?  For many couples, determining who will keep a pet is as agonizing a discussion and decision as determining child custody.  And, while there are somewhat established and clear cut procedures for determining child custody, determining who will keep a pet after divorce is a bit more complicated.

Generally speaking, courts tend to view pets as personal property, much like a car or home furniture.  But, as the issue of determining pet custody continues to be a growing factor in decisions during divorce, more and more attention is being paid to the best interests of the animal.  Unfortunately, in some divorces pets can be used as leverage or a bargaining chip to sway decision making. Forbes elaborates on how pet custody is a growing discussion for divorce cases, “Researchers estimate that about 50% of American marriages end in divorce. They also say that 62% of American households include at least one pet… Because a pet is legally considered personal property, that means that you can use a prenuptial agreement to ensure that your pet will stay yours, no matter what happens in the future of your marriage. However, if it’s past time for a prenup, consider including provisions for your pet(s) in a postnuptial agreement. If it’s also too late for a postnup, and your husband is using your pet to try to force your hand in the divorce process, use a common sense strategy to fight this tactic. Keep in mind: The facts may be on your side.”

Forbes goes on to explain that certain factors will be considered, whether you pursue mediation or litigation, such as whether or not the pet was someone’s before the marriage, where children will live if children are involved, who has the best ability to care for the pet, etc.  Because these discussions can tend to get emotional and may be exploited by attorneys, it is always best to pursue mediation so that the best interests of each party are protected, as well as the best interests of the pet.

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