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Divorce and pet custody

The majority of U.S. households have a pet. For many pet owners, particularly those without children, a beloved dog or cat may be viewed and treated as a member of the family. Given American's love of pets, it's no wonder that a growing number of divorce cases involve disputes related to pet custody matters.

A recent survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association revealed that American pet owners will spend roughly $41 billion dollars on their pets during 2014. From veterinarian bills to designer dog collars, today’s pet owners often go above and beyond simply providing a pet food and the occasional pat on the head.

Despite the fact that a divorcing individual may regard a pet as a family member or child, the courts do not. In fact, during a divorce, a pet is treated much the same way as a family heirloom or piece of jewelry. Pet owners seeking to battle it out in court for custody of a pet may shutter at the notion that, to the court, Fido or Fluffy is simply considered an "asset" to be divided and owned.

When determining who gets a family pet in a divorce, a judge is likely to consider numerous factors. For example, was the pet purchased or acquired during the marriage or brought to the marriage by one spouse. Likewise, which spouse most readily provided for the pet's emotional, health and physical needs. In cases where children are involved, a judge will often rule that a pet should stay with whichever spouse has physical custody of the children.

New York residents who have questions and concerns about the custody of a pet would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney who handles divorce matters. When attempting to retain ownership of a pet, there are a number of factors that must be considered and an attorney can often help provide for a favorable outcome.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who Gets The Pets In A Divorce? What You Need To Consider When Fighting Over Fido," Maria Moya, Jan. 21, 2014

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