Many of us consider our pets to be our ‘fur babies,’ as they mimic many of the same routines and support mechanisms parents have with actual children. However, legally in the state of Arizona, they are not recognized as such. In Arizona, and many states across the U.S., pets are considered property, on the same level as a couch. So who gets custody of your ‘fur baby’ when you and your spouse divorce?
Who Gets the Pet?
Ultimately, it’s up to the judge to decide who gets the animal, which can be determined by a variety of factors. If there are adoption papers that state who has ownership of the animal, then that person would have a leg up in being awardedphysical custody/ownership. Likewise, if there are vet bills or receipts of purchases related to the animal, that could further build the case for who gets ownership. There can also be intangible evidence, as seen in who cares more for the pet or who the pet is more emotionally attached to. It’s important to note that intangible evidence varies by state, and can be a subjective judgement on the part of the judge.
Legislation Is Changing
In states like Illinois, Alaska and California, the laws around pet custody in divorce cases are being loosened. In these states, pets are not seen as mere property, but are treated similarly as children would be in custody decisions. In these states, this can include awarding joint ownership to both pet parents or having one pay financial support in certain circumstances.
At Simon Law Group, we suggest that when getting married, a couple should sign a prenuptial agreement and include the allocation of pets in the document. This makes the divorce proceedings much easier when it comes to the decisions involving ownership of a pet.
Due to this rise in popularity regarding pets and the law, there are even pet prenups now, similar to what we suggested above. If you aren’t married yet, an attorney can also create an agreement, such as a Binding Financial Agreement, that can dictate who has legal ownership of the pet. This document is similar to a prenup in that it allows couples to decide on rules of ownership for the pet, in lieu of a marital status.
Even if you don’t end up getting a legal document to decide which partner gets to keep the pet, regardless of whether or not you and your partner are married, communication is key. Taking on the financial, emotional and physical responsibility of a pet is no small decision, and should be discussed with your partner. This incldues the uncomfortable conversation of who will keep the pet in the event of separation.
If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, Simon Law Group, PLLC, can assist you in your case. We understand that the ownership of a pet is an emotional one in divorce proceedings, which we handle with the utmost sympathy for your attachment. To get started today, contact us.