Divorce can be stressful enough without wondering what will happen to your beloved pets. If you have any questions about how pet custody works or how you can make your best case for why you should continue to care for a pet after divorce, our experienced Mountainside property distribution attorneys are ready to assist you.
How Are Pets Treated in Divorce Agreements?
Pets are usually held in high regard by their owners and end up becoming a top priority, but to courts in most states they are still considered to be property. This means that they need to be equitably distributed with the rest of your marital property, including any cars, homes, or other assets you jointly own.
However, because pets are treated as property, that can make who gets custody of them simple in some cases. If you adopted a dog, cat, or hamster before you got married, they are considered separate property. Like other assets you brought into your marriage, they should belong to you afterward. Custody only really gets tricky when a pet is considered marital property.
Do We Need the Court to Decide on Pet Custody?
You can decide on a pet custody agreement outside of court and the normal property distribution process. One way to make this simple is to make pet ownership a part of your prenuptial agreement. If you are signing a prenup for other purposes anyway, putting a clause in there about who gets the dog or cat after a divorce will not take that much more effort.
You can also come to an agreement after divorce proceedings begin. If you and your spouse are able to talk to each other about this and decide on a pet custody arrangement on your own, the court is likely to accept it.
How Can I Show That I Would Be the Best Pet Owner?
While pets are seen as property, most judges are going to understand that a dog, cat, or parakeet you have adopted should not be treated exactly like some furniture you received as a wedding gift. You will often have the chance to show that you are the best possible owner for the pet you have shared. You can do that by showing that:
You were the primary caretaker: You can have witnesses attest to how much time you spent with the animal and how well you cared for it when you and your spouse were married.
You are financially responsible for the pet: If you are the one paying for food, toys, and vet bills, you can make a good argument for custody.
You have a good home for the pet: If you are in a better living situation than your spouse and have a home better suited to your shared cat, dog, or ferret, that matters too.
Meet With Our Divorce Attorneys
If you are concerned about who will get to keep the pets after a divorce, contact Ross & Calandrillo, LLC. We can schedule a consultation and tell you more about what our compassionate attorneys can do to help you fight for the best possible outcome.