Folks here in Kentucky have always had a strong attachment to their animals, whether horses or other farm animals, a hunting dog, or a house cat. Nevertheless, animals seem to be an increasingly important part of a couple’s divorce agreement. This may be due to the animal’s market value or an emotional attachment.
They are legal property
Many treat their indoor animals as part of the family, but the law still considers them personal property to be divided up like table lamps or other pieces of property. It can make the courts wary of custody arrangements for Fluffy, but judges have become increasingly open to the concept.
There are often unique circumstances, but the ownership/custody is often determined by answering the following questions:
- Who initially paid for or adopted the animal?
- Who pays the bills related to animal care?
- Who is in charge of the day-to-day care of the animal?
- Will children be affected if the animal does not live with them?
- Does one spouse have a history of animal abuse?
- What are the best interests of the animal?
- Is it particularly attached to one family member?
- Do all the animals need to remain together when there is more than one? Or can they be split up?
- Is it an emotional support animal?
Finding a solution
The goal is to ensure that the animal or animals continue to be well-cared for after the divorce. As with other arrangements, couples can create an amicable agreement where the animal spends time with each of them, but it is unlikely that judge will award visitation or joint custody. It comes back to full ownership of an asset, but a spouse can appeal the decision.
While litigation or appeals over the control of a pet can be expensive, many animal lovers consider it money well spent. Those with questions regarding divorce with pets can discuss these matters with an attorney, who can provide insight based on the unique details involved.