In New York and elsewhere, there are many married couples who are pet owners. In some cases, the pet may have belonged to one spouse before the marriage and, in others, the pet may have been acquired after the fact. Joint pet ownership can be a great thing; however, if a couple chooses to divorce, determining who gets to keep the animal can be problematic.
Love it or hate it, in New York and in most states, pets are considered to be property. As such, they are subject to property division laws. In order to determine who gets to keep the animal, a judge will consider certain factors such as children, living space and income before deciding with which spouse the pet will continue to live.
A lot of pet owners do not view their animals as property, though. They are members of the family. As such, pet owners would like more options regarding pet custody. This is not something most courts are willing to weigh in on, but soon-to-be exes may be able to figure out pet custody agreements outside of court.
Joint pet custody, though it may be difficult to navigate, is possible. Co-parenting a pet can be done if both parties are willing to act in the best interests of the animal, share costs, stick to routines and not use the pet as leverage -- among other things. Those who feel that they can make this work can seek legal help in drawing up pet custody agreements.
Fighting over pets happens quite frequently in divorce cases. In some instances, there may be valid reasons to grant pet custody to one spouse. However, there are alternative options -- such as joint pet custody -- for those who are willing to negotiate and work together. An experienced family law attorney can help divorcing couples in New York achieve the pet custody plans that they desire.
Source: expertbeacon.com, "Our pets aren't property: co-parenting after divorce", Steven May, Accessed on Dec. 23, 2016