When Your Children Have Fur:  Who Gets The Pet in the Divorce?

More often than you think, we have clients come to us who are primarily concerned not about money or retirement or the marital home, but about what will happen to their pets (especially dogs, cats, and horses) upon their separation or divorce.    The answer to this question is not usually very satisfying to our clients:  the court will treat them just like any other piece of personal property.   That is, if you and your spouse cannot agree about what should happen to your pet, the court will order him/her sold.  Yes, it seems barbaric, we know, but it is the state of the law.

Still, there are many creative ways to try to reach a resolution around what to do.  Depending on the level of hostility between you and your spouse, you can try to negotiate a “custody” agreement for your pet.  This can be as loose as or comprehensive as the circumstances require.   The agreement can include a custody schedule (even a holiday and visitation schedule), terms for how vet and other bills will be paid, and even a procedure for determining big-picture issues like how end-of-life decisions will be made for your beloved furry family member.

And getting to this agreement can be done at the kitchen table, or in mediation, or even through a counsel as you hash out other issues in your divorce.  But coming to the negotiation table is the best policy where pets you love are concerned.

Interestingly, in protective order matters involving domestic violence, the court can award possession of  a pet.   So, if you find yourself petitioning the court for a protective order, the court can temporarily award you possession of family pets, so be sure to make this request if you find yourself in this position.

McCabe Russell, PA, has helped hundreds of clients come to agreements that put the issues that are important to them first.  Contact us for your consultation today.