You have a pet that you adopted while you were living with your husband. Now that you’ve decided to get a divorce, you’re not sure who is going to end up with your dog. You both love it equally, and you want to make sure you place your dog in the right home.
Although you both have your pet’s best interests in mind, you don’t want to give up your dog, and neither does your spouse. How will the courts treat your pet if you decide to let a judge decide who gets to keep him or her?
Pets are treated like property, even though they’re living creatures. That means that under law, the value of your pet is calculated in your property division settlement. For instance, if your pet cost $800, then its value would be $800. This would then be added to the value of your assets and divided as determined by the court.
In New Jersey, one couple took their case to the extreme and fought over their rights to their pet dog. The appellate court in their case agreed that the dog shouldn’t have been treated like any other kind of property but instead given a subjective value to the pet based on the pet’s perceived worth. In that case, it was later found that the animal should be kept as joint property, since it had been raised by both individuals.
If you and your spouse can’t make up your minds about who should keep your pet, you may want to try one of several dispute resolution processes. Your attorney can help you choose a way to work through your decision.
Source: FindLaw, “Pet Custody in Divorce and Separation: Who Gets Fido?,” Neetal Parekh, accessed July 21, 2017