When couples divorce, many issues arise that affect both parties. What happens if they both have a pet in common? What happens to the pet? It is essential to bear in mind that having a pet involves many responsibilities: the obligation to take care of it and to provide it with all the attention it needs. After a divorce, it is evident that all the marriage’s common assets have to be divided. In the case of having common children, the custody and responsibilities for each of the parents must also be regulated … well, can a custody or visitation regime also be regulated for common pets after divorce? It is an issue that is currently on the rise in our courts that are beginning to rule on it to contemplate another part of life as a couple. Let’s check all about it!
Anyone who has cuddled up on the couch with their beloved dog would agree with the statement that for many people, dogs aren’t pieces of property that can be haphazardly divided, but rather are family members, or in the least, animals with rights that need to be considered. Now, family law courts across the country recognize that as well, and several states have enacted divorce law statutes stating just that.
Alaska became the first state to adopt such a measure, doing so in 2017. Illinois followed suit in 2018, and California then joined the club in 2019. State-by-state, the laws are a bit different. For instance, in Alaska, considering the well-being of the animal is a requirement. In California, judges can consider the animal’s well-being but are not generally required to in all cases.
So how do you consider the well-being of a pet in a divorce case? You’d have to think about who cares for and is best able to care for the animal. That may include living and working arrangements, the financial capability of caring for the animal, and even whether the animal is firmly attached to just one of the two parties. It should also be noted that most people will immediately think about dogs in divorce. However, the laws mentioned above actually deal with all animals that are household pets for the couple. So whether it’s a cat or an iguana, the animal would qualify.
When states begin passing measures such as these dealing with pets and divorce, it’s not uncommon for the movement to pick up momentum across the country. Even for much more hotly debated matters, such as medical marijuana and then fully legalized recreational marijuana and same-sex marriage, once a trickle of states began to pass such measures, others began to do so more rapidly.
In a few years, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see many more states across the country also recognizing the rights of pets in divorce. Also, consider animal cruelty laws in place that can result in jail time for offenders. Therefore, viewing animals as beings that have rights and need their well-being protected isn’t exactly a great leap of logic.
Of course, as we’ve been discussing, pets in divorce is a matter that is handled by individual states. If you’re moving through a divorce case or maybe doing so in the future, you only have to consider the official statutes of your own state. That’s also why it always makes sense to work with a seasoned professional familiar with all local regulations.
Caring for the well-being of animals is crucial to so many people. Seeing that considering their well-being in the matter of pets and divorce cases is a positive step forward.
This article does not represent legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. Always consult with an attorney before making any legal or financial decisions.