A divorce can be fraught with complex and emotionally charged legal issues. Property division, child custody and alimony can all be hotly contested, and can affect an individual for years to come. However, there are some issues that might not even be on an individual's radar until he or she seeks to dissolve his or her marriage. When this happens, the individual may not know how the law applies, or how to address the issue.
One of these matters involves companion pets. Though animals, pets can become a crucial part of our families. An individual can spend a significant amount of time and money on a pet, and he or she may become emotionally attached. But how are pets handled in a divorce?
Despite the integral part a pet may play in a family, many states continue to view pets as personal property. This means that, in a divorce, a court will handle a pet as such. Therefore, if seeking ownership or "custody," it may be beneficial for a divorcing party to show that he or she either purchased or adopted the pet. However, even if an individual did not initially acquire the pet, showing that he or she was the pet's primary caregiver, the one who took the animal on walks and/or bought all food and toys for the pet may be enough to tip the scales in his or her favor.
A dispute over pet "custody" can be problematic, as Ohio does not currently recognize pets in the same fashion as children. That is to say, courts do not necessarily look to the best interests of the pet when considering who should get him or her. Therefore, when handling this delicate issue, it may be beneficial to speak with an experienced divorce attorney.
Source: American Legal Defense Fund, "What to do if you are involved in a custody battle over your companion animal," accessed on Mar. 23, 2015