Every pet owner knows that a pet is like part of the family. Some couples may even view their pets as an additional child. Your divorce lawyer understands this, but they also know the law. The law considers your pet a possession rather than a family member; therefore, only one party in the divorce is granted possession of your pet the way they may be granted possession of the house, car, or another possession. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Can My Ex and I Share Joint Custody of Our Pet after a Divorce?
If you and your spouse wish to share custody of your pet, then you may do so, but it won’t be up to the court to award custody. This is a discussion you have to have with your spouse and your attorneys.
In fact, it may be in your pet’s best interest to come to this decision between you and your spouse. The court does not take your pet’s best interests into mind when discussing who gets custody during your divorce. However, a qualified and empathetic divorce attorney in Sugar Land TX will keep the animal’s best interests in mind.
Can My Divorce Lawyer Help Me Discuss Custody of My Pet During My Divorce?
Ideally, your attorney should be present as you and your spouse attempt to work out shared custody of your pet. This will help you keep the meeting civil and fair for both you and your pets. Plus, several questions need to be answered when working out custody, and they especially apply if you’ve decided on joint custody:
- What days does each spouse get the pet?
- How frequently will the pet be changing houses?
- Who gets to decide the pet’s medical treatment, diet, and other issues relating to care?
- Who pays for food and vet bills?
- Can either party take the pet out-of-state on trips?
- Who gets to decide what happens at the end of the pet’s life?
Should I Get My Pet Custody Agreement in Writing?
It would be wise to get everything in writing, and, if you can, get the court’s stamp of approval on your agreement. This would mean that if one spouse attempts to keep the pet full-time or takes a pet out-of-state without permission, then you can take legal action to prevent this from happening again.
If you have a court stamp of approval on your plans, then you can also bring pet care negligence on your spouse’s part to the court’s attention. Your divorce attorney will also give you advice that applies best to your situation regarding your pet.
Does the Type of Pet I Have Impact What Happens to Them During the Divorce?
Generally, the type of pet you have has no impact on how they’re viewed by the court in the divorce. Everything from birds to dogs can be seen as property. A pet may be seen as anything more than property if the pet is essential to your work, however. In these cases, the pet will most likely stay with the spouse using them for work. However, this consideration likely won’t be considered if you simply bring your pet to work for the psychological benefits.
Registered emotional support animals and service animals are not seen as property. These must stay with the person they assist, and this is never up for discussion.
If We Can’t Come to an Agreement, How Do Courts Decide Who Gets Custody?
Generally, the court will award custody of your pet to the person who paid for it or who usually pays for its food and other needs. If you have children, then the court may take this into account, too. If the absence of the pet impacts your children, then the courts may make decisions based on this.
For example, if one parent has sole physical custody of the children, and being away from the pet would cause the children distress, then that parent will also be most likely awarded custody of the pet. If you have shared physical custody of your children, then the courts may suggest you share your pet on the same schedule and work out the details of the agreement with your attorney.
Can I Sue for Pet Ownership?
You can sue your spouse for pet ownership if you wish, but this most likely won’t be a part of your general divorce proceedings. Civil or small claims court can take care of these issues. It’s up to you to decide whether suing for custody of your pet is worth the stress and expensive, but most pet owners will likely feel it’s very much worth doing. However, it would be best to settle the matter without suing for custody if you can.
Unfortunately, pets are seen as property in a divorce, but you and your spouse should be able to come to a civil agreement on how to share custody of a pet that means a lot to both of you. Your divorce attorney will be happy to help you with any issues that arise in the process.