One of the most challenging and emotionally contentious issues that couples face when splitting up is who will get the pets. Pet custody can be one of the biggest issues after child custody, often generating more fighting than financial considerations, because of how emotionally charged the negotiations can be. Here is everything you need to know about pet custody in Arizona.
Pets in Arizona Family Law
Unfortunately, pets are considered personal property in Arizona law. What does this mean for you, when you’re getting divorced and splitting up property? Pets being viewed as property means that there’s no legal precedent for sharing pet custody. The judge can award the pets to one person or the other, or divide them down the middle if there are a relatively even number of pets, but they can’t mandate shared custody or visitation in the divorce agreement.
It also means that you leave with whatever pets you came into the relationship with. Your ex’s dog is legally still their property, no matter how much of a relationship you developed with the dog during the marriage.
Pet Custody Arrangements
Because of the legal view of pets as personal property, Arizona family courts have no authority to mandate a shared custody arrangement of a pet. This view may be changing, but in the meantime, you will have the most success if you are able to work with your ex-partner to come up with a pet custody agreement. Mediation may help you come to an agreement if you and your former partner are fighting too much to agree on anything.
Similar to a child parenting agreement, a pet custody agreement can outline a schedule for alternating pet “parenting” time, or grant primary pet custody to one partner while allowing for visitation with the other. The agreement should also indicate how pet expenses are shared and who is responsible for big decisions such as medical care and euthanasia. Your pet custody agreement should be as detailed as a parenting agreement in order to avoid misunderstandings.
Tips for Winning Pet Custody
If you are unable to negotiate a pet custody arrangement with your former partner, your only remaining option will be to try to be awarded the pet in the court’s division of marital property. This will only hold water if the pet was acquired during the marriage, of course, since pets acquired before the marriage will be considered the personal property of whoever originally purchased the pet.
There are a few factors the court will take into consideration if you are able to present a strong case for them, such as:
- If you provided most of the care and training of the pet during the course of the relationship.
- If you will be better situated to care for the pet after the divorce. For instance, if you have a house with a yard for the dog and your ex-partner does not
- If the pet was a family pet and you have more parenting time with the kids
The Importance of a Good Family Law Attorney
The difficulty in deciding matters such as pet custody make it all the more important to have an experienced legal guide at your side during the entire process. Your attorney can facilitate negotiations toward a mutual pet custody arrangement, or present a strong case for you in court if it comes to that. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.