Many families consider their pets to be a member of the family, but in a divorce, they may not have the same protections. During a divorce, you may find yourself arguing over the custody of your family pet. Pet custody disputes can feel emotionally draining and stressful, but your love for your pet shouldn’t be overlooked by the court. If you are fighting for the custody of your pet, here’s what you should know about pet custody during a divorce.
Pets & Property Division
Traditionally, pets have been considered a form of personal belongings, the same as a sofa or livestock on a ranch. Courts will usually determine the custody of a pet during the division of marital property. There has been a recent movement towards awarding pet custody to the spouse who would be in the best interests of the animal. This is important, because it recognizes a cultural shift in the way we view the animals that we share our lives with, and recognizes that not all pet owners are created equal.
Some courts will typically weigh a number of factors when awarding custody of a pet. These factors may include:
- Which spouse pays for the animal’s food and care.
- Which spouse is responsible for the animal’s training and healthcare.
- Which spouse regularly interacts with the animal, plays with them, or walks them.
- Which spouse applied for the pet license, adopted the pet, or bought the pet.
- If the animal is a show animal, which spouse is listed as the registered owner or breeder.
- Which spouse will have custody of the children, so the pet can stay with the children if they have a bond.
- Which spouse has a schedule that is more beneficial to the pet.
Judges have a considerable amount of discretion when making decisions regarding property division, which allows them to use this power to work in the best interest of the animal. Judges may be pet owners themselves, so they can understand the bond you may have with your pet and the importance of a good home for the pet. They may also make their decision based on what is in the best interests of the children in the family, especially if they share a strong bond with their pet or are the primary caretaker of the animal.
In Ohio, there are no specific statutes that apply to pet custody during a divorce. Legally, they are considered personal property, and don’t have any legal protections. It is up to the judge to make decisions in your pet’s custody dispute.
How to Protect Your Pet Custody
Your bond may be particularly strong with your pet, which may inspire your spouse to use your pet against you. It isn’t uncommon that pets are used as leverage to get what one spouse wants. Judges typically do not look kindly on this type of emotional manipulation.
If you are concerned about losing the custody fight for your pet, you can present evidence that may help sway the decision in your favor. Here are some forms of evidence that can help your case:
- Receipts for food, training, veterinary care, or other pet care expense that have your payment information on the.
- An affidavit from your vet that states you are the person who is responsible for your pet’s medical care.
- Statements from your neighbors that you are the one who takes your pet out for exercise.
- Any registration papers, adoption agreements, or pet license applications with your name on it.
Your pet is an important member of your family and your bond with them should be respected. At Weis + O'Connor LLC, we know that divorce is stressful enough without worrying about the future of your pet. Our Columbus divorce attorneys are dedicated to helping you successfully navigate your divorce, and ensuring that your best interests are looked after. Get in touch with our team to get access to experienced legal counsel.
Contact our office online or call (614) 428-0266 to schedule your free initial consultation.