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Pet custody often more than a division of marital assets issue

For many couples, the addition of a pet to their family can be as important as the arrival of a new baby. That may be why more and more couples are struggling to determine custody of the animal in the event of a divorce. For many Colorado spouses, custody of a dog is more than simply a division of marital assets decision.

There has been an increase in the numbers of former couples who are unable to settle this matter peaceably. Though some states have passed laws that enable a judge to consider the needs of a pet, the majority of states still view this as a division of property matter. There are some circumstances that may sway a judge one way -- especially if a pet was brought into a marriage by one spouse or if the animal was intended as a gift for a former spouse. Otherwise, it may be difficult for a judge to consider which party will provide the better home.

If at all possible, it is recommended that the spouses attempt to find a solution to this problem in much the same way they would for their children. If they can come to terms on a shared custody agreement, then a judge will usually approve such plans. During this process, it may be beneficial to include as much detail as possible -- including the sharing of expenses for medical care. Furthermore, if children are also involved, then including the pet in their custody plans may ease the transition for both children and pets.

Until all states pass laws that acknowledge pets as cherished family members, owners may wish to draw up a pet prenuptial agreement before a marriage commences. There are many decisions that need to be agreed upon when it comes to the division of marital assets, and having to settle custody of a pet only adds to this burden. Colorado families who are contemplating seeking a dissolution may benefit from the input of an experienced attorney who can guide them throughout the process.

Source:, "Pets increasingly becoming divorce battleground", Susan Peck, March 27, 2018

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