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Many families own pets they love dearly and are considered to be a member of the family. If so, who gets to keep the pet may be an issue that is close to your heart. Does Utah law treat pets as a member of the family or are they considered to be personal property? Currently, pets are considered to be personal property. If your dog, cat, bird, snake, ferret, or other furry, feathered or scaly pet was acquired during the marriage, it is considered to be a marital asset. That said, courts do try to consider what is in the best interest of the pet and may take into consideration the following:
1. When was the pet acquired? Did one person own it prior to the relationship?
2. Who is the primary caretaker of the pet and has the most time to be able to devote to it? This includes feeding the pet, grooming the pet, cleaning up after the pet, and spending time with it.
3. Which individual is in the best financial position to take care of the pet?
4. What environment will be best for the pet and cause as little disruption as possible?
5. Who takes care of the pet’s medical care, takes it to the vet, etc.?
Often, a divorcing couple is able to agree to a visitation or care schedule of the pet that would be in everyone’s best interest. If this proves to be the case, the court generally approves this agreement.
Given the gravamen of the decision of who is awarded the pet, it needs to be addressed in your Decree of Divorce. Contact our professional today if you have questions or concerns about keeping your pet.