Who Retains Custody of Family Pets After Divorce?

It’s a sad fact of life that divorce will touch many of us in one way or another during our lives. Although division of property and debts can be made fair for both parties, there are some assets that can’t be split. Of particular concern to many families is the question of who should retain custody of  the family pets after divorce?

Pets are a Core Member of Most Families

With an estimated 78 million dogs and 58.8 million cats in the USA, animals are an integral part of many US families. When divorce happens, who ends up with custody of pets is a tricky call. In fact, the ASPCA estimates that up to 10% of dogs put up for adoption are done so because of divorce.

However, regardless of the attachments everyone involved may have, many states, including Arizona, classify pets as personal property.  The Court will hear evidence about the history of the pet’s ownership and potentially, its monetary value. While relevant to property distribution, that sort of analysis does not feel meaningful when referring to a beloved pet.

Think About the Animal

Between the spouses, if able to work out the details of the dissolution amicably, it may be appropriate to consider the “best interests” of the animal.  The Court may not, but that does not necessarily mean that the parties should not.

Consider Sharing Your Pet

If you and your partner are on amicable terms and losing the pet forever is too much for one of you to bear, it could be worth setting up a sharing schedule. By creating a calendar and agreeing who gets the pet and when, you’ll both have an equal share in it.

Another way to share time with a pet is to have the pet travel with the common children for parenting time.  In other words, parenting time with your kids will mean time with your pet on the same schedule.

Seek Legal Advice

If you have concerns about your pet in the context of a divorce, it is wise to seek the guidance of a family law attorney who can help you work through your options.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Family Pets After Divorce, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Jonathan D. Brooks at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.