who keeps the pets during divorce?

Who Gets to Keep Our Pets During a Divorce?

Before you got married, or perhaps during your marriage, you and your spouse got pets together. You raised them, took care of them, and treated them as members of your family. You can’t imagine life without your pets.

Now, you’re worried because you’re getting a divorce and you don’t know who is going to get your pets. Will they go to one person? Could you share time with your pets the way you might with your kids?

If you have pets, it’s a good idea to do your research and learn the different scenarios that could apply. Then you can prepare yourself before you go into court for your divorce proceedings.

Here’s some information on pets and divorce that may be helpful to you:

Pets Are Seen as Property

Generally, the courts view pets as property. If one spouse purchased or adopted the pet prior to the marriage, then it will likely go to them. However, the court may take into consideration that a pet means much more than other types of property and could weigh that into their decision.

Additionally, when deciding on pet custody, a court may examine both spouses’ lifestyles to see who could take better care of the pet. For instance, if one spouse is getting custody of the children, they may get the pet. Or, if one spouse travels a lot, then the pet might be better off with the other spouse.

It’s important to provide as much information as you can about your schedule and your living situation so court can make the most informed decision. For example, if you have a big dog, you could show that your home is larger and has a yard, while your spouse lives in a tiny apartment with no space for a large dog.

You could also show your work schedule, which allows you to work from home three or four days a week. As opposed to your spouse’s, which is more erratic, requires them to work shifts at different times of the day, and doesn’t allow much time to take care of a pet.

Care Will Factor In

Even if one partner purchased the pet before the marriage, it doesn’t mean that they were a good owner. Perhaps they never walked the dog or took it to its vet appointments, for example. If the other partner was diligent about the pet’s care, they could argue that they should get custody.

Keep All Relevant Evidence

If you are caring for the pet or it was originally yours, you should collect and keep all relevant evidence that could prove your case. For example, this could include ownership or adoption papers, medical bills for veterinary care, receipts for pet food, equipment, and toy purchases at the pet store, receipts from a dog walker, pet sitter, or another caretaker.

You Should Never Kidnap the Pet

It’s understandable that you love your pet and you’re afraid of losing it. However, this doesn’t mean you should take it from your spouse without their approval. If it’s their turn to watch the pet, let them have it. Establishing trust with your spouse is not only going to look good to the court, but it could ensure that you have a much smoother divorce process.

An Agreement Can Be Made

If you and your spouse can come to an agreement to share the pet, then the court will likely allow it. Then you both will still be able to spend time with your favorite non-human friend.

Think About Your Pet’s Best Interests

Though it may be heartbreaking, there’s a chance you could lose custody of your pet in the divorce process. But as you would with your child, you should think about what’s in the best interest of your pet.

For example, you just might not have the space or time for your pet right now. It could be best for your pet to go where your kids are going to be living. Even though it’ll be very hard on you, you have to put your pet first in this situation.

Consider Getting a New Pet

Once your divorce process is over and you get settled into your new life, you may have more time to dedicate to a pet. At this point, you could always find a new pet.

Don’t rush into anything as you’ll likely be very emotional during the early days following your divorce. But once you have a clear mind, you may be able to find a pet who you will love just as much as your other one.

Need Legal Guidance for a Divorce in South Carolina? Contact the Mark Nowell Law Firm

If you are going through a divorce and you’re worried about getting to keep your pet and other important issues that will need to be resolved, it is best to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney. If you are in South Carolina, the Mark Nowell Law Firm is here to help. To get started, message us online call our office today at 864-707-1785.


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