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How is Pet Custody Determined in the Divorce Process?

We Know the Treatment of Pets in the Divorce Process Is Important to You.

A pet custody agreement drafted by a skilled divorce lawyer is essential.

Most people consider pets to be part of the family, not property. The law sees them differently. Thankfully, our attorneys know a way you can work around that fact. There are steps you can take to create a pet custody agreement during a divorce. This agreement will help determine how pet custody will be handled in your divorce.

We love our pets, and for good reason. Companion animals have been known to lower stress, teach children compassion, and help ease symptoms of depression. When it comes to divorce, deciding who gets Fluffy and Fido is just one of the many areas that must be negotiated. Recently, pet custody has been a hot topic in courtrooms across the country, and Indiana is no exception.

A Pet Custody Agreement Considers Your Pet’s Well-Being

Generally, animals are considered by the law as property, objects to be owned. Judges have been dividing up pets in the same way they divide up tables, kitchen appliances, and bedroom furniture. However, this way of thinking seems to be shifting.

More than a quarter of the attorneys from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) report seeing a great increase of pet custody cases in the last 15 years. Alaska became the first state to pass a law to allow judges to provide for “well-being” of pets in divorce actions, by considering the ownership or joint ownership of the animal. This groundbreaking legislation also allows joint custody, giving the family pet a chance to experience time with both parties, similar to child custody cases.

In Indiana, there is no legal obligation by the court to consider pets as anything other than property, so this issue can be decided by the parties themselves as part of their property distribution.

The results can be an emotionally wrenching situation, because resentment, sadness, fear, and anger tend to take over when decisions such as these are underway. Some divorcing spouses have even been known to use the family pet as leverage or demand primary ownership even if the animal was closer to the other spouse.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund suggests that if your ex is being difficult about a custody arrangement, or you are simply trying to do what’s best, you should seek out an attorney who cares about your situation. The New Albany, IN, divorce lawyers at Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law (CLLB) can help. We understand how difficult it is to go through a divorce and how important your pet’s welfare is to you, especially if there are children involved. We can guide you through all the issues you face and help you make decisions that ensure that you avoid costly mistakes affecting your life in the years to come. We have worked with many families, and we look forward to working with yours.

Contact us today at 812-725-8224 and put our experience to work for you.

How Is Pet Custody Determined?

If Divorcing Spouses Can’t Agree, a Judge May Determine Pet Custody.

Indiana is an equitable property division state. This means marital property isn’t automatically assumed to be divided equally in a divorce. Instead, the court will divide property according to the way it sees as being most fair.

When the courts consider pets as property, pet custody will be part of the property division. Property is categorized as either marital (belonging to both spouses) or non-marital (belonging to one spouse). Marital property is divided equitably, and non-marital property goes to whichever spouse it belongs to.

If you owned the pet before getting married, acquired the pet by gift or inheritance, or if your spouse agrees that the pet is yours, the pet is non-marital property and you will be awarded the pet in the divorce. However, if the pet belongs to both of you and is considered marital property, and you and your divorcing spouse cannot agree, the court will have to decide who will own the pet through testimony and fact-finding.

How A Judge Determines Pet Custody

When making a decision, the judge may award the pet to . . .

  • the custodial parent of the children so that these innocent parties stay together,
  • the person who originally purchased the pet,
  • the person who licensed the pet, or
  • the primary caretaker of the pet.

At Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law, our attorneys know the considerations that judges use, and can help guide you throughout the entire divorce process. We will answer all your questions, explain your options, and handle all legal issues involved to advocate for your rights and needs, as well as those of your children and your pets.

Our Attorneys Have a Strategy That Values Your Love for Your Pet and Your Pet’s Well-Being.

We can help increase the chances that your pet will remain a part of your life. There are specific steps we will take to accomplish this goal. When you work with our attorneys, we will…

  • Find witnesses who could testify on your behalf.
  • Get testimony of your veterinarian as to who brought your pet in most often.
  • Provide facts about who is best equipped to care for your pet and to provide a good home environment for your pet.
  • Show that you have a plan to make sure your pet is taken care of if you are out of town or away for extended periods.
  • Prove that you were the one who adopted or purchased your pet.
  • Prove that you are the primary caregiver and should therefore continue being the primary caregiver. This may involve gathering receipts from the vet, groomer, trainer, and grocery store, to show that you not only took financial responsibility, but also care-giving responsibility for your pet.
  • Interview friends and neighbors who may have seen you on walks with your pet.

Pet Custody Agreements Can Be the Best Option

It Is Always Ideal to Create a Pet Custody Agreement with Your Spouse.

Even if you are having problems with your divorcing spouse, you may be able to negotiate an agreement if you are both realistic and think about the needs of the animal and your family. Consider issues such as:

  • If one of you is in a small apartment and the other gets the house with the yard, where would the animal have a better life?
  • How would any children feel about the pet’s arrangement?
  • Will you live close enough to shuttle the animal back and forth between two residences?
  • Who can best afford investing the time, money and care of the pet?
  • Does the pet feel more attached to you or your spouse?

If you cannot come to an agreement on your own or through negotiations between lawyers, you may want to consider using a mediator, especially if you are using one to settle other issues.

And if you are not yet dealing with the divorce process, plan ahead. If you do not have a premarital agreement, see if you can construct a postnuptial agreement during your marriage that states who will own the pet in case of divorce.

Call On Our Attorneys for Help with Pet Custody and All Divorce Issues

Divorce is hard enough without also facing the loss of your beloved pet. If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the divorce attorneys at Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law. We have years of experience helping people in divorce and custody cases, and we can help you. Based in New Albany, Indiana, we proudly serve communities throughout Kentucky and Indiana. Contact us by calling 812-725-8224 or using our online form.

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