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Who Gets Pets in a Divorce?

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While states may differ on the issue, most states situate pets as “property.” Meaning that they are supposed to be divided like property. In Kentucky and Ohio, marital property is anything that is acquired during the marriage that is not a gift, inheritance, etc. So, if you acquired Beethoven before you were married, your chances of maintaining possession are much more likely. (Though not guaranteed because of comingling. Please consult an attorney for your state’s comingling laws.)

Most pet parents do not want to sell their pooch and split the proceeds, so most of the time, one partner agrees to take the pet, while the other partner agrees to forfeit all rights to that pet. However, pets are more important now than ever. Meaning that both partners are unwilling to come to an agreement surrounding the pet.

So how does a court decide who gets the pet if the parties cannot agree to who should get the pet? As you may imagine, states differ. Some states have moved towards a “best interest” test (Similar to the “best interest” test applied in child custody cases). Other states, like California, have laws that allow judges to provide for joint ownership of a pet in divorce.

In Kentucky and Ohio, pets are still considered property, and each court in that state could differ on their decisions. It is unlikely that a Court would order the parties to enter into a “parenting schedule” with the animals. The Court is more likely to consider factors to determine who would best be suited to maintain possession of the animal. Some factors to be considered would be the presence of a back yard, or income, or the presence of a child with a deep bond with the animal, or another number of factors.

Litigation on animal possession in a divorce can be costly, but many clients think it worth the cost, because, at the end of the day, these animals can be some of the most important assets, and best friends, that a person has.

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