You and your spouse have a pet, but no children. You know this means you’re not going to have to go through the child custody process when you get divorced, but you’re going to have to divide your marital property. Even so, you’re hoping that you can be given custody of your pet.
The bad news is that your pet legally counts as property in the eyes of the law. This means that the court isn’t going to set up a custody situation where you have the pet for a week and then your ex has them for the next week, or anything of this nature. You and your ex are certainly free to set up a schedule on your own, if you would like to do so, and many couples do. But there is no legal requirement for the court to do so in the same way that they would with children.
What will the court decide?
Instead, the court is going to look at your pet as a piece of property that has to be divided between the two of you. The only real solution is to give the pet to one person and to identify another asset that has a similar financial value. This other asset can be given to the person who did not receive the pet. The court is just looking at the monetary value, so this is fair and fulfills their requirement.
Of course, from your perspective, it may feel completely unfair. You don’t want to receive a couch or a television instead of your beloved pet simply because they have the same resale value. But it’s important to know what the court can handle and what types of things you need to address with your ex yourself.
One other thing to consider is whether or not you bought the pet prior to the marriage. If so, it likely counts as a separate asset. Your spouse would not have a claim and the pet would remain with you after the divorce.
What should you do next?
Divorce can be complicated, especially in situations where optimal outcomes are difficult. Be very sure that you understand all of the legal steps you can take.