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Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fighting for Custody of Fido

When a couple divorces, who gets to keep the family pet?

Fido the dog and Chloe the cat are not just pets. They are members of your family. So, did you ever think about what would happen to them should you and your spouse decide to divorce?  Probably not. Well, with two-thirds of American households containing a pet and many of these households made up of couples who are waiting longer to have children, the issue of pet custody has become a hot one in divorce cases. 

When it comes to pet custody, there are a few things you should know. Animals are treated as property by the courts. This means your beloved dog or cat will likely be discussed as a painting or a piece of jewelry would be in a divorce matter. The courts have wide discretion when it comes to distributing property in a matrimonial case and this discretion covers family pets. But, most courts generally stay out of these types of disputes. When they do become involved they might consider factors such as who paid for the pet or for its care during its life. Some progressive judges are starting to consider factors that are similar to those in child custody cases, such as the best interests of the animal and the parties involved. But, this is rare.

If there is a pet custody issue in your divorce case, you will likely have to work it out with your spouse outside of court. While a contract regarding the animal can be entered into, these are usually hard to enforce. So, a good old-fashioned agreement is likely your best bet. This type of agreement will work if the couple can work together for the best interests of the pet. Otherwise, the parties could have a long road ahead. In an attempt to avoid these problems, the couple should consider entering into a pre or postnuptial agreement that pertains to pet custody.

If you are in the middle of a divorce proceeding with a pet custody issue or are looking to create a pre or postnuptial agreement, you should speak to an experienced Garden City, New York matrimonial attorney today.


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