Pet Ownership in an Albany Divorce
Pets are classified as personal property during divorce proceedings. As a result, they are subject to equitable distribution, though New York has a history of case law that creates some unique standard for pets. Dogs, cats, and other animals are among the most contentious subjects when it comes to dividing assets. If you foresee this becoming a problem, a property division attorney could help you negotiate pet ownership in an Albany divorce and advocate for a fair result.
Why is Pet Custody Such a Contentious Part of Divorce?
Pet ownership is a contentious part of local divorces because, not only is it frustrating for many people that the state views pets as items of personal property, but people feel that a pet is a part of the family. Children, especially, may have a close connection with their pets. Yet while children can sometimes be assigned their own attorneys to advocate for their best interests, animals cannot get the same treatment. Furthermore, if the couple cannot come to an agreement, then the pet might have to be sold, which many people believe to be a callous solution.
There are no legal standards for different species of pets. Practically speaking, spouses are more likely to contest ownership of a dog or a cat compared to less active animals such as fish.
How Are Companion Animals Assessed?
There are certain considerations for companion animals, also known as therapy animals. Those responsible for dividing assets must consider who the therapy animal is registered to, what its purpose is (to handle anxiety, depression, et cetera), what the circumstances surrounding the acquisition are, and whether it was only registered as a therapy animal after a significant length of ownership. In general, a person who has registered an animal for emotional support will keep them after a divorce.
The Argument Against Pets as General Property
Many people believe that animals should not be classified as general property because they are living creatures with needs, emotions, and attachments. The state has slowly begun to consider the “best for all concerned” standard for a pet’s well-being, which includes identifying who was primarily responsible for caring for them and what the home environment is like.
Pets as Liabilities or Assets
There may be situations where an animal is considered an asset, such as a show dog that is entered into competition and can win money for the owner, or an animal that is used for breeding offspring to be sold. Outside of these commercial interests, a pet is considered a liability because it costs money to maintain. A local lawyer could help someone determine if their pet ownership should be classified as a liability or an asset during a divorce.
Other Factors for Determining Pet Custody
The physical and financial capability of each spouse to care for the animal must also be considered. Even if the pet had a primary caregiver, they might not be able to take ownership if their new living situation provides hurdles, or if their apartment complex forbids it.
The state must also consider what is in the best interests of the children, which often means keeping their lives as undisturbed as possible. In this instance, it may be prudent to keep them with their beloved pet.
Learn About Pet Ownership in an Albany Divorce from an Attorney
When a dog has been a member of the family for many years, it can be gut-wrenching having to determine which spouse it gets to live with. There are several considerations that play a part in determining pet ownership during a divorce in Albany, which a lawyer could explain to both parties. If you have questions about how your household animal is treated during these proceedings, place a call now to learn more.