Of all the details decided in divorce litigation, the disposition of pets can be very emotional.
In millions of households across the country, pets are regarded as members of the family. Yet divorce courts view them very differently. In the eyes of the law, pets are not little, furry children and therefore do not require custody agreements or visitation schedules.
So what happens to your pets when you get a divorce?
Pets are Viewed as Property in a Divorce
Your pet holds a special place in your heart. But to the divorce courts in Utah and most other states, pets acquired during marriage are no different than other property.
In other words, your beloved cat, dog, bird or hamster will be treated just like household furniture, family vehicles and other marital property: as chattel.
This means that if you don’t come to an agreement on your own, the divorce court will assign your pet to either you or your spouse. Shared custody or visitation would not be considered for your couch or television, and the judge will not spend time arranging it for your pet either.
Planning for Your Pet After Divorce
So, what if you and your spouse want to share custody of your pet? Is that legally possible in a Utah divorce?
The answer is yes, as long as you negotiate and create your own custodial arrangement. If you and your spouse can agree on terms for a schedule and pet expenses, that arrangement can be a part of the divorce settlement.
Some divorcing couples decide upon an alternating week situation, while others prefer a pet custody schedule that mirrors that of the children. You and your spouse can sit down and hammer out a visitation and expense plan.
Or, if you are not able to arrive at a mutually agreeable arrangement, your divorce attorney can negotiate terms on your behalf.
Letting the Divorce Court Decide
Animal rights activists have long petitioned the legal system to change its stance on pets in a divorce settlement, as the emotional bonds we develop with our pets can be psychologically relevant.
Until the divorce laws in Utah change, however, judges will continue to treat pets as property.
Because of this, most experts recommend that divorcing couples work out their own pet custody arrangements. After all, many people would rather share a pet than take the risk of losing their furry friend completely in a divorce.
If the divorce court must decide which one of you should get the pet, many judges will try to determine what is in the best interest of the animal and who would take better care of the pet.
Unfortunately, leaving this matter to the discretion of the judge is highly subjective, so either of you could end up gaining possession over the pet.
At the Burton Law Firm of Ogden, Utah, we understand how important your pets are to your emotional well-being. We are committed to working diligently on your behalf to arrive at a pet custody arrangement that works for you.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your pets throughout your divorce process and avoid taking your chances with litigation.
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