We often think of our pets as members of the family, and this is no different in a divorce. Unfortunately, the law hasn’t caught up with the sentiment, and pets are treated as nothing more than property to be divided in a divorce. While this may not seem fair, it is the unfortunate reality that the courts simply cannot referee “custody” disputes over the pets. Massachusetts is an equitable division state, so the Court will look at what a fair property division – including the dog – would be. The Court may consider the following factors in determining who should get a pet in a divorce:
- Was the pet a gift to one spouse?
- Does the pet have pedigree papers, and if so, whose name is on them?
- Is one party a primary caretaker of the pet?
- Does one party have more suitable living arrangements for a pet?
- Did one party own the pet prior to marriage?
- Is there any evidence either party ever mistreated the pet?
- Which party was primarily financially responsible for the pet?
The Court will enforce a determination of who gets the pet(s) in a divorce, but it will not enforce any sort of “shared custody” or “parenting plan.” This is not to say that an amicable divorce agreement may not include sharing time with a beloved pet; however, if one party fails to abide by the terms of the agreement, it is unlikely that the court will intervene.
THIS BLOG WAS WRITTEN BY ATTORNEY CATHERINE TAYLOR AND IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATING AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.