Roughly 50 percent of American marriages, including those in Connecticut, end in divorce, and about 62 percent of American households include pets. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, many recent pet custody disputes reach courtrooms. Dogs are the most frequently disputed animal, but other types of pets are the subjects of disputes as well. Sometimes, they are used as bargaining chips in divorce.

Spouses tend to develop strong emotional attachments to their pets. Some individuals engage in emotionally based extortion by pursuing custody for revenge. It might be in a person’s best interest to focus on the financial issues. Spouses who exploit an emotional bond with a pet to coerce their partners into giving up something they want should be prepared for a judge to call them out on it.

In the eyes of the law, a pet is personal property. Individuals may consider using a prenuptial agreement to ensure that their pet stays with them in the event of a divorce. Another option is a postnuptial agreement that includes provisions for a pet. If the case does go to court, the judge may ask the following questions: Who brought the pet into the relationship? Are children involved and, if so, where will they live? Whose lifestyle would be better to suited to pet ownership?

It might be a good idea to consult a family law attorney for advice. When preparing for a court case, owners can ask a veterinarian to sign a statement that acknowledges they, not their spouse, take the animal in for check-ups and treatments. A strong case clearly demonstrates that the animal would not often be left alone or cared for by strangers because pets thrive when there is consistency and positive interaction with humans.

Source: Forbes, “How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?“, Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014