Courts in New York State are responsible for considering the ownership and monetary value of goods and assets in the home during divorce proceedings. In terms of ownership and distribution, the Courts treat pets just like any other item or property. This ultimately means that a divorce Court Order will likely determine pet custody.
Are there other choices available, to ensure individuals can keep their pets following a divorce?
Pet Custody Agreements
Pet ownership issues after a divorce are usually found in young couples, or older couples with grown children. Regardless of the ages, pet ownership issues are indicative of companionship dependency with the involved pets.
Depending upon the individual’s situation, it could be in a pet owner’s best interest to create a pet agreement, which puts forth terms relating to the pet owner control over how the animal is cared for if the couple splits. A prenuptial pet agreement can reduce the risk of losing a pet if a marriage does not work out. A postnuptial pet agreement can detail terms of custody and control of pet/s obtained during the marriage. If neither prenuptial or postnuptial agreements were entered into and a couple is getting a divorce, a pre-dissolution agreement between the parties can help with the Court’s final decision, and can also serve as evidence for a divorce attorney to help justify your case when speaking to a judge in the matrimonial action.
Terms in these agreements can include:
- Visitation Rights
- Primary Custodian Appointment
Making a Decision on Pet Custody
Agreeing upon your pet’s custody between can lessen the heartache of each of those involved, including the parties, children, etc. It can also lessen the amount of time before the Court time, and alleviate the degree of stress that is inevitable in divorce cases.
Several considerations are to be considered while negotiating terms of a pet agreement:
Children: Removing a pet from the household during the divorce can be traumatizing for a child and the pet that they have bonded with. Many families decide on having the pet join the child during visitations.
Work: If the pet owner is gone for most of the day due to work responsibilities, the pet might better suited to remain with the other party, especially if the other party is able to provide more day time care and attend to the animal’s well-being.
Relocation: It is difficult for a pet to adjust to a new location. If the party with custody is planning a move, or if they are uncertain of a permanent residence as they explore different options, it could be best for the animal to stay in their home until a decision is made.
Speak to an Experienced Attorney About How to Address Your Pet During a Divorce
It is essential that all options are considered and the situation is resolved as amicably as possible during a divorce or separation when the lives impacted, include pets. Courts consider a pet as property; if a dispute arises where an agreement cannot be reached, a Court can in theory decide that it is in both parties’ best interest to sell the pet and split the money received between themselves. A Court can also mandate through a Court Order that one party gets possession of the pet. Seeking a Court Order – especially following an agreement to terms made between the parties – will ultimately lead couples to consider all options carefully, and may obviate a forced sale of a pet.
Pet custody issues are complicated and can cause emotional distress. These same issues, especially as they relate to an animal’s ownership, can lead to unforeseen decisions and Orders by the Court. To speak with the Colwell Law Group’s experienced team members about pet custody, reach out to the office today. Consulting with one of our reliable family attorneys will be your first step towards understanding and ensuring your rights during a divorce as a pet owner and pet lover.