Getting a divorce can be a stressful process, especially when there are children involved and custody is contested. But what happens to the family pets? This question is becoming increasingly more relevant. As of 2021, two out of every three American households include a pet. This means that over 85 million American homes contain a pet, a 20% increase since 1988. The divorce rate has also been climbing. With almost 50% of marriages ending in divorce or separation, many people find themselves asking, “Who gets the family dog?”
With such high numbers, family pets are increasingly being brought up in court proceedings. While most people consider their pets to be members of their family, courts often do not regard them as such. Even though it can be frustrating, pets are legally considered a form of personal property, similar to a piece of furniture. Just like in the division of marital property, the court often examines several factors when deciding who gets the dog. These factors can include:
- Who purchased the dog?
- Which party takes care of its basic daily needs?
- Who takes the dog to the veterinarian?
- Who trains and gives the dog social interaction?
- Who can financially support the dog?
While it can be difficult to decide who gets the family pet, often it is in the best interest of the parties involved to make the decision outside of the courtroom. Mediation is a great tool to produce the best possible outcome. This can involve deciding if the pet will do better with one person, or if a shared custody (i.e. visitation and financial responsibilities) agreement makes more sense. It is important to remember that when children are involved, North Dakota courts often place some weight on the child custody arrangement when dealing with pets. In child custody cases, the court examines 13 best interest factors, one of which is the home environment. The family dog can play a relevant role in deciding that factor.
Divorces can be difficult, and the inclusion of pets can add unnecessary stress. If you are thinking about getting divorced, or in the process of one, you should consider retaining an experienced attorney who will help make the process as smooth as possible; even helping you get the family dog.
If you have any questions, please contact Rosenquist Law Office at (701) 775-0654 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.