Who Gets the Pets During a Divorce?

Who Gets the Dog in Divorce?

If you’re thinking about divorce and you and your husband share a pet, you might be worried about who would get the pet if you split up. Cruel as it may seem, courts treat pets as property. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can assist you in determining your rights to your pet. 

What Will Happen to My Pet If My Husband and I Divorce? 

Despite the emotional attachment many individuals have to their pets, courts in most states, including  New Hampshire, treat them like other property, such as furniture or jewels. If one of the spouses brought the pet into the marriage, that spouse will likely be granted to them during the divorce. However, the court may consider several factors, such as who is responsible for the pet’s care.

New Hampshire is not a community property state, meaning that any property owned by either property is subject to division. Nevertheess, when it comes to a pet the judge’s first consideration may be whether the pet was primarily acquired by just one spouse. Typically, this dispute will revolve around whether one of the parties owned the pet before the marriage. However, even if the pet was owned by one party prior to the marriage, if during the marriage the pet came to be equally cared for and loved by both, this may negate the importance of the prior ownership. 

Did one spouse spend more time taking care of the pet? Which spouse walked it most often?  Who usually fed the pet? Who arranged the pet’s medical care? Who made sure someone looked after the pet when the parties were on vacation? These are all questions a judge may look at.

Who has custody of any children from the marriage may be one of the more persuasive issues a judge may consider when deciding where a pet should live after its owners split. While courts usually recognize pets as property, they are equally concerned with the children’s best interests and may decide that the pet should remain with them.

What Role Do Pets Play in Equitable Divorce Distribution?

Individuals have the same legal rights to their pets as any other property. When one partner does not want the pet, things are simple as long as the other does. The couple can set up a pet visitation plan if they both want to be involved with the animal and agree. There may be agreements on how the pet’s bills and emergency care are divided. When there are kids involved, it is not uncommon for the children’s pet to accompany them to each parent’s home. 

If there is no consensus, it becomes more difficult because judges dislike deciding who gets to keep the cat. However, the Judge will consider how and when the pet was obtained before deciding who receives it in certain situations.

When choosing who gets to keep a pet following a divorce, the Judge may consider several factors. If a pet were given to one of the couples as a present, the animal would usually stay with that spouse after the marriage. Alternatively, if the court suspects one spouse of mistreating or harming the pet, the judge will almost certainly award the pet to the other spouse. When you move out of your house and leave your pet behind, the court may allow it to stay with the person who has been caring for it.

Unless you can prove a genuine necessity (for example, you exhibit horses and require the horse to continue showing them) or a risk of the matter not being resolved (for example, one spouse is talking about donating or selling the animal), the Judge is unlikely to resolve the pet issue until the end of the case.

If You Do Not Get the Pet

Anyone who relinquishes their pet as part of a divorce will have a massive hole in their hearts and lives. In addition, they will go through the grieving process due to their tragic loss.

Allow yourself some time to grieve before adopting another animal. Shelters and rescue organizations are looking for kind individuals to give temporary foster homes to animals awaiting adoption.

If you’re facing a divorce and need help dividing assets and navigating this time, speak with our experienced Concord divorce attorneys.

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