In the past, pets have been considered property in a divorce, where one party is awarded the pet like an asset. But today, with pet-custody battles increasing, courts are looking at pets less like a couch, and more like a child. Factors based on animal best-interest are now being considered to help assign custody, visitation, and even alimony in some cases.
Believe it or not, custody battles in divorce have been fought over, not just dogs and cats, but also iguanas, parrots, pythons, and turtles. Whatever pets you have, if you and your ex cannot come to an agreement on who gets the pet, Utah courts can set up a visitation schedule so you can share the pet. If your children are close to the pet, you may want to consider allowing the pet to go back and forth on the same visitation schedule as your children.
4 Steps to Take If Pets Are Involved in a Divorce
- First try to come to an agreement with your ex on what makes the most sense for which party should get the pet. Consider things like who bought the pet, who mostly took care of the pet, who the pet was most bonded to, and who will have better living arrangements for the pet. If an agreement can’t be reached…
- Try to come to an arrangement on how to best share the pet and create a schedule you can both live with the pet going back and forth. If that can’t be accomplished…
- Allow Utah courts to set up a visitation schedule for you so that it is as fair as possible, and then abide by that. If you are not happy with that arrangement…
- You can continue to fight for full custody through litigation.
If you do decide to continue to litigate over pet custody, just keep in mind that pets don’t live forever, and that it may take thousands of dollars and months or years for a court decision to be reached. One case involving a fight over Gigi, a pointer-greyhound, cost the parties $150,000 and took two years. In this case, the court ordered a “bonding study” to be conducted by an animal behaviorist.*
Getting Help with Your Utah Divorce Case
If you are looking into a divorce and need legal help, we’re here for you. You need to ensure you consult with a competent family law attorney that understands the issues during a divorce, including how to deal with disputes over pets, and will help put your mind at ease legally and financially so you don’t get taken advantage of. At CoilLaw, LLC, Salt Lake City Divorce attorney Jill Coil knows how to advise you during a divorce to help you achieve the best settlement and/or result possible. At CoilLaw we are ready and available to help you through your legal action. If you need legal advice concerning a Utah family law issue, call Jill Coil at CoilLaw LLC in Utah at (801) 939-6027 today.