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Property division and the family pet

People in Los Angeles treasure their "fur-babies." Indeed, one's dog, cat or other pet is truly considered a member of the family by their human companions. Of course, human relationships are complicated and sometimes a married couple decides they are best off divorcing. This kicks off a host of decisions that must be negotiated. While people may anticipate a child custody battle, if they have children, the issue of who gets the family pet can be almost as emotional a topic.

Pet owners may feel a little dismayed that, technically, pets are considered property for legal purposes in a divorce. However, most states also recognize that each spouse may be emotionally attached to the pet and that a pet can't simply be paid for or replaced. So, the spouses out-of-court may wish to negotiate a "pet custody" arrangement, rather than leave the matter subject to the laws of property division.

There are some considerations to keep in mind when deciding who will keep the pet after a divorce (or if each spouse will "share" custody of the pet). One consideration is who has paid for the pet, along with food and veterinarian bills. Also, who takes care of the pet, by feeding it, walking it and spending time with it will be considered. Some spouses may find they can both "share" custody of the pet, with one party having the pet some of the time and the other party having custody of the pet the rest of the time.

In the end, the family pet deserves to be taken care of by the owner or owners that are best able to give the pet a loving home. Since both spouses in a divorce may feel emotionally attached to their pet, they may want to try to negotiate a "pet custody" arrangement on their own that they are both satisfied with.

Source: FindLaw, "Pet Custody Laws: 5 Things to Know," Deanne Katz, Esq., Oct. 19, 2012

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