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Pet Custody Battles in a Divorce

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Divorcing parents are usually prepared to go through child custody negotiations in the best interests of their children. But at the time of divorce, they may not have contemplated what will happen to their pets? How to handle the negotiations with your ex-spouse if you have a sweet fur baby together and you both want full custody?

Determining which spouse gets custody of the pets in a divorce can be an emotionally challenging and legally contentious decision. This is especially true because a large number of Kentucky residents are in love with their pets and may insist on retaining pet custody in the event of a divorce. 

Determining Pet Custody in Kentucky

In many states, including Kentucky, pets are treated as possessions under the law. This means that your pets are subject to division in the same manner as other assets during the property distribution process. If the pet was adopted by one spouse before marriage, they will retain custody after the divorce. This is a straightforward resolution.

Things get tricky when the couple adopted the pet together after they got married. In such situations, the judge will use discretion and look at a wide array of factors before making a decision. Courts across the country are working to create a common law for similar treatment of pets in divorce cases. They will cease to be treated as property and be considered the same as children.

In many Kentucky courts, this practice has already started with the courts requiring pet parents to enter mediation to come to an agreement. The court may also grant partial custody and visitation rights to one spouse. In relation to this, it’s critical to understand that majority of courts still continue to use property analysis in addressing pet issues. You should consider hiring an experienced divorce attorney to achieve a favorable resolution.

Factors Affecting Pet Custody

Pets are beloved members of the family, and they should be treated as such in case of a divorce. There are several factors that are taken into account by a judge while determining what is to become of a cat, dog, bird, snake, ferret, or any other pet. The judge usually intervenes to make a decision when the spouses are unable to achieve an agreement regarding the pet.

The factors considered include:

1. New home of each spouse

The first factor to be considered is where each spouse will live following the divorce. If one spouse keeps the family home which has a large backyard while the other moves into an apartment – the court will naturally give preference to the spouse with the larger home. The well-being of a pet is taken into consideration before making the decision regarding pet custody.

2. Relocation

Local laws and regulations can restrict the relocation of a pet abroad. If one spouse has plans to travel for extended periods of time or move abroad, the judge may find it more appropriate for the pet to live with the other spouse.

3. Primary caretaker

The judge will give preference to the primary caretaker. They will ask detailed questions about who walked the dog, made vet visits, bought food, cleaned the litter tray, and other things. The spouse that was the primary caretaker has a higher likelihood of receiving custody of the pet.

4. Best interests of the pet

In a manner similar to assigning child custody, the judge will ultimately base their decision on the best interests of the pet. They will gauge which pet parent is better suited for taking care of the needs of the pet.

Arrive at Creative Pet Custody Arrangements

You can arrive at the best results when you are flexible and willing to make compromises. For instance, you can agree to the other spouse taking the cat as long as you get to pet sit during weekends or when the other spouse is out of town. Alternatively, you can arrange for shared custody, in which, you have the pet every other week.

It’s vital that the solution you arrive at is personalized to your unique situation. You can arrive at a more favorable outcome by working with a divorce attorney that has experience negotiating and resolving your pet custody dispute.

New Law in Kentucky: Welfare of the Pet must be Considered

In Kentucky, pets were considered marital property until very recently. However, judges now have full discretion to weigh all associated factors to arrive at a decision that is conducive to the overall well-being of the dog, cat, or any other pet. In many cases, the pets accompany children between households after the divorce. This is part of the shared parenting and child custody plan.

The court is likely to consider a shared pet visitation where there are no children. In highly contentious cases, the court may order the pet to be sold and the proceeds divided equally between both parties. They may order one of the parties to purchase the interest of the other in the pet.

Talk to a Proven Divorce and Custody Attorney in Kentucky

Pet custody disputes may be resolved in the same manner as child custody disputes through skillful negotiation by your legal representative. The attorneys at John H. Ruby & Associates have extensive experience in resolving pet disputes and other matters related to divorce.

Our lawyers are highly sensitive about a client’s pet custody needs and will do everything possible to help you achieve a satisfactory resolution. To set up your complimentary consultation, call (502) 373-8044 or reach us online