Owning and caring for pets is one of the great privileges of modern life. As dogs, cats, and other animals live in our homes and bond with family members of all ages, they become lifelong companions that greatly enrich our lives. Unfortunately, this raises the question of how ownership of pets should be decided when a couple decides to end their marriage in divorce. If you are concerned what will happen to your pet as your divorce goes through the legal process, make sure to express your concern to your divorce attorney. A legal team understands just how important how furry family members are and will do all we can to ensure you get the outcome you want.
Divorce Law and Companion Animals
During divorce, spouses must work to reach an agreement about who will retain ownership of the various property items that they own together, and pets are included among the possessions which will need to be divided. However, as discussed above, these animals are not inanimate objects, and many people believe that they should be treated differently, which is why many states have been changing their laws to reflect just how important pets are, often referring to pets as “companion animals.”
These laws specify how the ownership of companion animals will be decided during divorce. The judge overseeing the divorce will make the decision on whether there should be sole or joint ownership of the pet. The court will also decide responsibility for the pet and how this will be allocated between the spouses. Similar to child custody decisions, the court make their decisions based on what will be in the pet’s best interest.
With these new laws, pets are now treated as more than just property, and spouses may be able to argue that they are the one who will be able to best able to care for animals following the divorce. Showing that they regularly played with pets, took them on walks, fed and groomed them, transported them to the vet, or otherwise cared for them may be a way to demonstrate that they can best provide for their well-being.
It is important to note that these laws do not apply to service animals. A service animal is trained specifically to meet the needs of an individual with a disability. So if one spouse has a service dog, the other spouse does not have claim to that dog. These laws only apply to companion animals, which the federal government defines as one with no special training to help with a disability, whose purpose is only for companionship.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
If you need help determining ownership of pets in your divorce, divorce lawyers in Rockville, MD can help you demonstrate that you will be able to best provide for their well-being, and they can work with you to protect your rights and advocate for your interests throughout the divorce process. Contact a divorce attorney today to schedule a consultation.
Thanks to Daniel J. Wright for their insight into family law and divorce involving pets.