Do I have custody rights to a pet after a divorce?

The short answer is no. Unfortunately, pets are considered property, and the person who brought the pet into the relationship is the person who gets to keep the pet.

This is how pets are currently defined by federal divorce legislation. However, there are some legal professionals who wish to see these laws updated.

When couples become combative over custody rights for their children, it’s generally because parents don’t want to lose the relationship they have with their children. Being there to tuck them in at night, making them breakfast and driving them to school, watching tv or helping with homework or playing around are just some of the habits that can be affected by a divorce.

Some couples argue the same bonds exists with pets. Walking them everyday, feeding them, taking them to the vets, playing around with them and generally caring for their well-being are just some of the reasons that couples want to hold on to a shared pet.

But when it comes to divorce, pets are considered property. There are no current laws to divide a pet’s time between separating or divorcing couples. Parties may decide to develop a schedule on their own, but this is not mandatory.

A recent case ruled to uphold legislation supporting the party who brought the pet into the relationship is the party that gets to walk away with the pet. However, one of the judges, while upholding the current law, disagreed with its application. The judge described that people develop bonds with pets similar to parental bonds with children, and that there should be updated legislation to reflect this shift in societal values.

If you have questions about the ownership of pets, or what property is included or excluded in settlement proceedings, its best to consult a family lawyer. A legal professional will be able advise you on the best way to protect your rights and financial interests.

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