During a divorce, especially during the division of the martial assets, you think about things in a different way. You remember when you purchased an item, who gave you a gift or when you received your grandma’s jewelry or china.
When you consider dividing the property you and your spouse have accumulated over the years, you may not think about an important member of your family. Your pet. Because in the eyes of the law, your beloved dog or cat (or any other animal) is property. Exactly the same as you dining room table, china hutch, SUV, or boat.
This presents a problem, as many people may not find it an adequate solution to merely value “Fido” at $125 and suggest one spouse pay the other that amount and consider the topic closed.
Divorce can be a very emotional time and being told by a court that you have to surrender your dog or cat for “replacement value” may not improve your emotional well-being.
If you have a pet that could be embroiled in a “custody” dispute during a divorce, you may want to plan and develop a reasonable visitation schedule that will be acceptable to both sides.
The law is not well developed in this area and some judges have reportedly told litigants they don’t have time to consider such trivial matters. Nevertheless, in a country that spends billions every year on pets from boarding to health care, they are anything but trivial.
Be sure to discuss this matter with your divorce attorney so they can help you put together a solution that minimizes the disruption to your relationship with your pet.
Source: Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal, “How to Give the Dog a Home: Using Mediation to Solve Companion Animal Custody Disputes,” Emily Franklin, June 8, 2012