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Wisconsin Family Law Articles
Low Conflict Divorce: Don't Fight Over the Pets

Low Conflict Divorce: Don't Fight Over the Pets

During divorce, you and your ex will have to decide how to divide your shared assets and property. One matter that may come up during the process is pet ownership. Although most pet owners don’t think of their animals as possessions, they can be treated that way during a Wisconsin divorce. Pet owners can have strong emotions about ownership. However, those looking to have a low conflict divorce may want to consider doing what they can to not fight over their pets.

At First Look, we understand the importance of pet relationships and making decisions during divorce. Family law attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience helping clients consider their options during divorce.

Wisconsin Divorce, Pets, and Community Property

In Wisconsin, outside of certain exceptions, what a couple acquires and earns during marriage is considered their shared community property. This means that each partner owns 50% of their marital assets. If a partner had a pet coming into the marriage, they may have an argument that the animal is their separately owned asset. However, if the couple acquired their animal companion during their marriage, the pet will probably be considered a community asset under the law.

Wisconsin Law and Pet Custody

Wisconsin law views pets as a physical possession during divorce and will typically award the animal to one party or the other. However, parties can enter into their own agreements regarding shared responsibility for pets.  Just know that it is not the norm for the court to do that in a litigated matter. 

How Does the Court Decide Who Will Get the Pet?

In a Wisconsin divorce involving pets, the court can consider certain facts pertaining to pet ownership. For instance, it may consider facts such as:

  • If one person has been the primary caretaker of the pet,
  • Who took them to veterinary appointments more,
  • Whether the animal is bonded with children who will be in one parent’s home more often,
  • If one party is better equipped to provide for the animal’s care needs than the other.
  • The fact that one party may be more available to care for the pet.
  • The emotional and physical needs of the pet

Low Conflict Divorce and Not Fighting Over Pets

If your goal is to have a low-conflict divorce, you can make decisions that support that objective. When it comes to making low conflict choices regarding your pets and other important issues, it may help to use a process such as Collaborative Divorce. The Collaborative Divorce model allows the parties to work with neutral professionals to clarify the issues and understand one another's perspectives. This is a cooperative process wherein the parties agree to be open with information and work together. You and your ex could use Collaborative Divorce to develop an equitable pet custody and care agreement that honors your respective relationships with your animal companion.

Collaborative divorce is one of the low conflict divorce options you may want to consider. However, there may also be other methods you and your ex may want to use to work through this and other important issues in your case. The best way to evaluate your low conflict divorce choices is by consulting with an experienced Wisconsin low conflict divorce attorney. You and your divorce lawyer can talk about the issues in your case and determine the best solutions for you.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney

Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with the experience you need to help you with your Wisconsin divorce case. If you live in Metro Milwaukee, Waukesha, or Brookfield and have questions about representing yourself when your ex has an attorney, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.