For pet lovers going through a divorce, one of the most heart-wrenching and contentious issues in their case can be determining which party will get the family pet(s). Pets are often times an integral part of the family, a source of companionship and affection that can’t be easily replaced. At the same time, and although plenty of pet owners would disagree, pets aren’t children in the eyes of the law. So how does the court decide if the parties can’t agree on who gets the pet?
First and foremost, pets are considered property under the law. The court’s job is to divide the parties’ property as equitably as possible. Just as with any other piece of property, the court will have to determine the value of the pet, and will do so by taking a variety of objective factors into account, such as the initial cost of the pet, how long ago the parties bought the pet, and the potential cost of caring for the pet going forward, etc…
However, a good attorney will be quick to point out that there are other, more subjective, factors the court should take into account as well. After all, family court is a court of equity – which means the court can base its decisions on what it believes is fair and equitable to the parties. For instance, the court should know who primarily takes care of the pet, who takes it for walks, takes it to the vet, who brushes it and who the pet is bonded with the most.
In other words, your family companion may be considered a piece of property in the eyes of the law, but that shouldn’t stop you or your attorney from making the case that you can’t put a price tag on man’s best friend.
If you have other questions about divorce and would like to speak with an attorney, give us a call at 623-536-5500. Thank you.