Divorce and Pets
For many of us, our pets are not only faithful companions but are also considered part of the family. They share our lives and are often cherished and loved by everyone in the household. It may not come as a surprise that, in some cases, when a couple with pets is going through a divorce, the issue of pet ownership can be as contested as child custody. Here are some considerations regarding divorce and pets:
Wisconsin Law and Pets
While pet custody and visitation may be important to the parties to a divorce, Wisconsin law does not provide obvious guidance on this issue. Under the law, pets are viewed as property just as any other possession obtained during a marriage. As Wisconsin is a community property state, any property acquired during the marriage, including pets, belongs to each person in equivalent shares. Because pet ownership is not something that can literally be divided, the matter of who will keep the pet will depend on what the court deems to be equitable. To decide who should be awarded a pet in the divorce, the court will consider how other property is being divided as well as other factors in an effort to make a fair determination.
What Kinds of Evidence May the Court Consider?
While Wisconsin law does not provide direction regarding pet custody, the courts can consider both sides’ arguments for being awarded marital property. If this issue has to be decided by a court, you will want to present evidence that the animal is going to be better off in your care. For instance, you may want to establish that you have been the pet’s primary caretaker. The court could also examine facts such as who has taken the animal for veterinary care if the pet is going to be parted from children, and the ability of each party to care for the animal.
Reaching an Agreement
In many cases, the parties opt to develop their own pet ownership agreements rather than leaving the matter to the court. This decision allows the former couple to create an arrangement that fits their circumstances. For example, the couple could decide that the pet will reside at the children’s primary placement residence or that they are going to share possession and be jointly responsible for the animal’s care, feeding, and other expenses. Every situation is unique, but by being collaborative, the parties can develop a workable resolution concerning their pets which is mutually beneficial.
Deciding who will keep the family pets and how to create a functional agreement regarding future contact can be an important issue in a divorce. We understand the importance of maintaining a connection with your pets and can help you explore potential solutions.