Divorce comes with more than its share of hard decisions. One choice that often leads to bitter disputes is who gets to keep the family pet. While some states have enacted legislation to treat pets like children in terms of considering their best interests, others still follow decades-old legislation that treats pets as property. If you and your ex-partner share pets, learn more about what may happen and how you can fight for your beloved pets.
Looking for guidance and support during your divorce? It’s time to talk to the team at Kirk Drennan Law. Call our team at 205-803-3500 to set up a consultation right away.
How the Courts Look at Pets
Alabama is one of many states that treat pets as property. It has not (yet) pursued legislation that would allow judges to award custody to one pet parent over the other. As a result, pets are simply another piece of property to be divided. However, unless your pet is used for breeding, work, or shows, it’s likely that they don’t have much financial value—just sentimental value.
This helps you in some ways and hurts you in others. If your spouse is only concerned about the financial value of the pet, they may be more willing to give it to you once they realize it isn’t worth very much. On the other hand, if you have a deep connection to the pet and your spouse knows that they may be able to use it against you to secure a greater share of the marital estate. And if both parties are very connected to the pet, a bitter dispute could be in your future.
Proving a Connection with the Pet
Most decisions regarding the division of assets are made outside of court. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will negotiate, both seeking a fair outcome for their clients. This is when you can really think about what matters most to you. If you are determined to keep your pet, think about what you’re ready to give up and what compromises you can make. Make sure you also know where you have to draw your limits.
If the matter does go to court, you’ll need to be able to prove that you’re the right choice for the pet. The court will still consider a variety of factors when determining who retains ownership of the pet. They may look at:
- Who paid for vet care and took the pet to appointments
- Who knows the pet’s routines, medications, and daily needs
- Who has kept the pet throughout the divorce process
- Who took the pet for walks, fed them, and otherwise cared for them
- If one party has a stronger connection to the pet
- If one party owned the pet prior to the marriage
- Who is listed on the pet’s microchip
- If there’s a history of animal abuse by either party
- Who initially paid for the pet
- The pet’s best interests—pets are highly sensitive and may be prone to depression, anxiety, or a loss of interest in life if separated from their primary caretaker
Child Custody May Affect Pet Ownership
Another factor that may come into play is who will have custody of the children. If you and your ex-partner will be splitting custody, this may be a non-issue. However, if one of you will have primary custody and the other will have visitation, this may influence the court’s decision.
Consider this: your children have been through a lot during the divorce. The court is interested in protecting their mental and emotional health as much as possible. This may mean keeping the pet with the children, especially if they have a strong connection with the pet. In these situations, the court may determine that the person with primary custody also gets full ownership of the pet.
Explore Your Legal Options with Kirk Drennan Law
You have a lot of crucial decisions in the near future. Make sure you have legal representation you trust to guide you through this challenging time. To talk to the team at Kirk Drennan Law about your divorce and what comes next, call us at 205-803-3500 or message us online.