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Why Are Our Pets Still Considered Property?

Two of the most challenging components of the divorce process are child custody and dividing your assets. The former is highly emotional, and the latter can be financially unnerving. However, certain things land in both categories. Although you understand that you can replace the kitchen table you bought from Restoration Hardware or the couch from Pottery Barn, you have strong memories of your child from Christmas morning using both things. Losing property can be emotional; we are not here to downplay that. We intend to do the opposite. 

When you call your pet your fur baby, roommate, or best friend, you form unique bonds with them—yet, they are considered property in the eyes of the court. Some divorced couples come to their own arrangement and share time with their pets, but it may be challenging to get this in writing. The result is that only one person “owns” the pet because they are property. 

Protecting Your Pet

Toward the end of your marriage, when things are at their worst, you may have more contact with your pet than your partner. Think of the hugs, cuddles, and them waking you up with their noses. Losing this causes real pain for you and them. Remember this during your divorce, and check on your pet to ensure they aren’t unnecessarily suffering. Though this may seem somewhat silly, you know when your pet struggles. They may display signs of being lethargic and easily frightened, or their eating habits may deteriorate. We pick up on these cues and instinctively know when they are hurting.

These are signs that your pet may be in danger. There are also more overt things to be aware of. Has your former spouse demonstrated acts of violence toward animals in the past? Furthermore, have they made threats (emotional or physical) toward you? They are warning signs that your pet could be trapped in a dangerous situation. 

Protecting Yourself

The second component is taking the correct steps to ensure you have physical possession of your pet before the marriage ends—especially if you have seen the warning signs outlined above. When you register your pet, do it in your name. Keep and maintain the documentation when you take them to the vet or buy their medications. This is to show that you have been the primary caretaker of your pet. You can include your pet in your prenuptial agreement to take it even further back. (This may be the only benefit of a pet being considered property because this is not something you can do with child custody.) 

Lastly, you can take some comfort in knowing that you can seek possession of your pets through a protection order (50B) if you discover they are in danger. 

Talk with a Compassionate Family Law Attorney 
The legal team at Easterling Law, PLLC, understands how difficult divorce can be personally and professionally. Dealing with property division, child custody, and alimony may seem paralyzing, but it won’t be when you have our support. Our compassionate and empathetic staff will guide you through each step and will advise you along the way. You aren’t alone, and we will never let you forget that. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.