For many of us, our pets are members of the family and we don’t view them as mere property like a toaster or chair. When couples break up, it’s not uncommon for fights to occur over who will get the pet(s). Sometimes the new living arrangement will help dictate the outcome. If one party must move to an apartment or in with other friends or family while the other partner keeps the house with the yard, it may make sense for the pet to remain in the house. Sometimes couples can create a “share the dog/cat” schedule, not unlike a parenting time schedule as we do with children.
If couples cannot agree, ownership of the pet may become an issue to be decided by a judge. In family court, we often use the “best interest of the child” factors when we establish parenting time with the parents and child(ren). Most Courts don’t consider the best interest of the pet when deciding who will get the pet. Whether we like it or not, pets are property, like a toaster. Therefore, it’s better for the couple to make their own decisions and agreement regarding their pets and not leave it up to the Judge.
If the pet custody issue does go before the Court, it is important to look at the relevant “ownership” evidence, including: who purchased the pet, was it a gift from one to the other, who has the strongest bond with the animal and visa vie? Which person was primarily responsible for the feeding, walking, grooming, vet checks etc.? Is the pet registered or are there adoption records?
If you have an ownership dispute involving your pet, please feel free to contact me to discuss possible legal strategies and review prior cases and their outcomes.